Thursday, October 4, 2012

Leading During A Crisis

When the unexpected arises, I believe there are a few strategies that will help no matter how serious the problem is.

First you can only focus on what you can control. Worrying about what you can't control is unproductive. In times like these the one thing you should be able to control is your state of mind. You will need to stay calm, because as the leader people will look to you as the rock they can lean on. If you are panicking and unsure of yourself, this will send a negative message to those around you, who will then start to panic themselves. 

The other mind set to adopt is one of a positive nature. It is incredible what can be accomplished when you are in a positive state of mind. Staying positive will give you the strength and optimistic outlook that the crisis will be resolved, and you will be more likely to search for the solution.  

As you search for what to do it may mean you have to make decisions on the spot, especially in times of an immediate crisis. Since there is no policy in the matter, you will have to use your experiences and training to do what is best. You do have to think about the effects that your choices may cause, and having a few trusted individuals that you can bounce those ideas off of, can be a great asset.

Another choice I would make is to be transparent. I would not hide information or my feelings. I would just be in control of them. When people see you as honest and upfront, I think they will respect you more. If you have their respect then being their leader is half complete. I think it would be very difficult to lead anybody if you did not have their respect. This respect is something that will have to be nurtured and developed before any crisis, but to keep that respect you must be able to lead during a crises.

Being prepared is also key. This makes me think of how pilots train in simulations for any event. It most likely will never happen to them, but they are prepared for that unlikely chance of mayday. We as leaders need to prepare our minds by learning from others, reflecting, and thinking how will we act in certain situations. Playing this out in our mind and visualizing is a good way of simulating any crisis before it happens.

It's how you think first then act that will help you lead during a crisis. You need to understand the situation, the community, and the times you live in. It starts with you and your state of mind. If you have control of this, and are prepared mentally, you increase your chances of being an effective leader during a crisis.

Ultimately those crisis you encounter will help shape you as you learn to get thorough them and how you get through the problems will help define you as the leader you are. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Response to Evolving Perspectives: Leaders and Leadership

Evolving Perspectives: Leaders and Leadership
This article focused on the priorities of a principal and senior leadership. It focused on three main areas that administration is meant to improve, and what the challenges were in achieving these improvements. These areas of focus were the opinions of Ken Leithwood, who is a professor of Educational Leadership and Policy at OISE.

Dr. Leithwood mentions three areas that have become the main priority of principals. The first is that principals are responsible for raising school achievement. They are not just responsible for creating an environment where it can happen, but need to ensure that results do happen.

The second area of focus, which is more recent, is that principals need to close the gaps in student achievement. Principals are taking responsibility for the learning itself in the classrooms, not just providing the environment for good teaching practices to take place.

The third focus, which almost mirrors the second reason, is that principals are responsible for “turnaround efforts” at a school. It use to be that principals were focused on kids that were ‘At risk”, now the focus is on the whole school improving, so the focus of turnaround has changed.

School Achievement
The challenges to bringing this type of change are many. First principals now have to help develop good teaching practices with their teachers. The challenge with this is first convincing teachers that they may have to change or adapt their teaching practice. I think of the focus that school boards are giving to technology these days, and how not all teachers are convinced that this is the best move. The principal on the other hand believes that interrogating technology in a meaningful way will improve student achievement, now has to find a way to work with that teacher to inspire them to give technology a chance. The question is how do you convince people to change their ways, when you both have different view points for what is the best course of direction? Add on top of that, your job is dependant of that change happening.
Healthy Relationships
In the article, they mention building healthy relationships with staff being a priority for principals. This is a first before you start collaborating with others. After a positive relationship is established, it is more likely that two or more people can work together on the “big picture”. As more relationships are built, then more people are become focused on the main purpose. This cohesiveness, is the answer in how people with different viewpoints can work for the common good.

I assume, in the course this is an area we will explore, the building of healthy relationships with staff; how to go about this and ways to deal with different personalities. This will come done to our leadership style, something I read about in a book called “Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead With Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman. The book states that strong leaders have strong empathy skills, and this helps lead to strong healthy relationships.

Closing the Gap
The second focus of closing the gap is one that Dr. Leithwood said that “we know less about how to do this then we would like to know.” There just is not enough data and advice out there, but there was one area that principals agreed on, and that was to help close the gap, parents had to be part of the picture. Evidence is clear; students that get parent support are more successful at home.

When principals look at their role as one that is meant to improve student learning, then anything that can help with that, should be considered. It’s not just what takes place within the walls of the school that the principal needs to influence. When this is the mentality, then principals will look to connect with parents, and bring them in as partners with the school.

Parent Involvement
Getting parents to partner with schools can be a challenge due to busy schedules, but with technology and social media, it is more manageable than ever. Tools like websites, email, Twitter and Facebook, can help connect parents to the school community and keep them involved on a daily basis. No longer do they need to wait for the monthly newsletter home or that call home to know what their child is doing in school, and what they can do to help.

Taking it to the Next Level
Lastly, the article talks about how principals are responsible for turning around a school, and always taking it to the next level. There is never a place a school can reach and feel like that they have arrived at the top. There is always room for improvement, and principals need to find a way to lead their school there.
These are the focuses of a principal according to Dr. Leithwood, and they may seem like daunting tasks, but with the right leadership skills, people are capable of coming together, and bring positive change to any environment.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Response to Values-Driven Leadership

Values-Driven Leadership
This article was written by the Deputy Minister Steve Marshall in 2009. The article covers important character traits that the Deputy Minister believes all leaders should possess if they are to be effective leaders. These traits are optimism, self-discipline, energy, synergy, and behaving ethically.

He starts by mentioning that leaders have to be people that are optimistic, especially in the face of cynicism. Optimism can be the light people need when they may not be overly pessimistic.  It can bring people together for a purpose and be a positive force in developing a team that works together.

Self-discipline starts with controlling your thoughts. If you have control of your thoughts, then you will have control over your actions. I have a poster in my room that outlines this very concept. It goes,

“Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch you habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”

Leaders have to make sure they train their minds to have thoughts that are optimistic and positive on the plus side of the scale. If not, it can become a slippery slope to the bottom. This is a learned behaviour, and can be changed at anytime of our lives, but you have to be willing to make the effort to bring that change about.

Also, if you expect the people that see you as the leader, then you must model what you expect of them. For an organization, to reach its goals, it needs people that are disciplined, but you cannot expect this from others, if you yourself are not disciplined.

Energy, which comprises of enthusiasm, resilience, optimism, and commitment, is a vital part of the Deputy Minister’s model of  leadership. It’s vital, because as a leader, you will face many hardships, and negativity. The way you withstand the negativity, and keep your focus on the purpose, will be a measure of your success, and ultimately your schools success. If you are a person that has energy, you can be a catalyst to turn that negativity around.

Optimism, enthusiasm are contagious, and can help transform others to also have the energy you model. There will be many times when you will have to be resilience, but the commitment to student learning will be the what keeps you strong in thought.

In the end the role of the leader is to bring other together to work for a common purpose. These goals that the organization is trying to achieve cannot be accomplished by one person. This is why a leader needs to be the one that brings people together. How can a principal do this? I think it’s very much the same way we as teachers do it in a classroom. We use people’s strengths and interests and find a place that they will thrive in.

When you are tested, your integrity will be tested and those that are ethical and stand by their values, even if the goals are not met, will show their true selves. A leader will take responsibility for all failures, but will then learn from those mistakes to help regain the focus and continue the path of improvement.