[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on September 10th of this year, was our #9 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2018 countdown!]
The role of school administrator is evolving from a building manager into an instructional leader. This shift is not easy, and all leaders strive to be the best they can. Being a school leader isn’t easy and you are not going to make the right call all the time. However, you can learn to avoid common missteps.
There are countless articles about being a good school leader, but we also need to learn how to recognize and avoid missteps. Although making a misstep can be a learning opportunity, taking the time to learn how to recognize and avoid common mistakes can help you become productive, successful, and respected by your staff. Here are some examples of decisions or actions that can become a problem for you and your school. Understanding the misstep is the first stage in avoiding it.
1. Trying to be popular.
Too often, leaders think they must please everyone. And worse, please them all the time. Yes, you want to be well liked, but it is more important to be respected. Respect is gained by a leader when he/she is consistent, has clear communication, sets expectations and clear boundaries, and makes tough (and usually necessary) decisions. Sometimes, those tough decisions are not popular. I’ve found that if you keep students at the core and are consistent, most staff accept unpopular decisions if you communicate the reason. Not asking your staff (when you can) for their input before the decision is another misstep you want to avoid.
2. Not defining goals.
When your staff doesn’t know your goals as a leader, they are not efficient educators and it is difficult to support you. It is difficult for staff to be productive if they don’t know or see what they’re working for or what their work means. Setting your goals as a leader is the road map for your success and the school’s growth.
3. Assuming you are right instead of working to get it right.
Often, leaders mistakenly think a title and a position means their way is automatically the right way. This comes from not listening to input from other staff members to add perspective and also engage their ownership and involvement in the decision-making process. The more time a leader spends involving his/her team at the beginning of the process, the easier it will be to carry forth a decision and move toward your established goal.
4. Talking the talk and not walking the walk.
Leaders must mold their own behavior to reflect what they want from staff. Successful leaders tend to be positive role models for their staff. A leader must lead by example: If teachers need to stay late, you should also stay late to help them. Or, if the culture is that no staff eats lunch in their classroom, then set the example and eat in the staff room or with the students. The same goes for attitude—if you’re negative some of the time, your staff will be negative, too. If you are a positive leader, your team will be positive. If you just “tell” others what to do, the same negativity will come through in your staff. Model the traits that you would like to see your staff members display.