Too often I think leaders in education set up a stoic stance in an attempt to maintain law and order. I remember seeing school administration when I was in school and they seemed unapproachable. This just does not fit with my personality or leadership style. Is that how I would want to be greeted if I were a 6, 8, or 10 year old student? What if the best part of my day was the structure and support I received from the adults at school because my home-life was anything but stable?
When our elementary students are grown, I want them to have memories that they were greeted warmly and welcomed into the school each day. Despite what may have happened the weekend or night before, or even that morning, they know that someone was genuinely happy to see them. That someone cared. That they were loved and valued.
Leading from the Heart
Leadership is more than just managing. It is more than setting up schedules, doing evaluations and ordering supplies. Leadership is found in relationships. It is in modeling. It is in having a servant's heart toward others. It is about empowering others to grow and lead on their own. It is about demonstrating grace, toward students, families, and staff.
Currently in my 10th year of administration, and my 4th year at my current site, I have learned so much about improving school culture through relationships.
Relationships with staff takes time. Trust needs to be built. Camaraderie established. Listening to concerns and ideas. Consistency in decision-making. Building strong teams. All great ideas but they won't work until you have relationships with individuals. You have to learn your staff.
I recently read the "5 Love Languages at Work" by Gary Chapman and Paul White. Everyone has a different way they feel valued, respected, and appreciated. I feel called to get to know my staff members and be able to connect with them. I want to help them with struggles or concerns, and celebrate their successes. In every organization, there are those who appreciate public praise, and those who shy away from it. Introverts, extroverts and every combination. Each person has a different way they express and receive appreciation. But it is my job to get to know them well enough to provide support for them to do the best job they can. That takes time and an attitude of wanting to continuously to learn about my staff. That is my servant's heart.
Leadership is not an easy path. There are daily struggles, dramas and situations to handle. Issues have to be managed and problems addressed. But each day as those smiling faces walk to school or tumble out of their family cars in the morning, I am reminded why I am here.
To build relationships.
To make a difference.
And it begins with a fist-bump and a smile.
You can follow me on Twitter @SusanDenton27 and my school @StandardElem.