Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why I Lead - A Life of Mentorship (#savmp)

I think leadership has always been a part of me.  It's difficult to explain.  My leadership came in the form of helping others.  My style is a quiet form of leadership backed by a strong sense of what I believe in.  It's not difficult for others to recognize what is important to me.  From there, I can lead by supporting others on their journeys of learning, teaching and leadership.


An Opportunuity for Mentorship

Now that I am retired, I want to focus on two things: staying involved in education and giving back to the profession.  When George Couros from Canada posed the idea of a principal mentorship, I jumped at the opportunity.  I saw it as a chance to give back and continue learning.  George had this great idea of pairing mentor principals with mentees to support them along on their leadership journey.  When he put the idea out there, he received an overwhelming response of 350 folks who showed an interest in the collaboration.  What a great opportunity to learn together.  Each mentor has been assigned three mentees.  I will be mentoring a high school vice-principal from Kenya, an assistant elementary principal from Texas, and a vice-principal from a secondary community school in British Columbia.


Why I Lead

George suggested we write about why we lead.  There was a time when leadership seemed a scary venture.  I was always interested in helping others recognize their potential.  Maybe that's what led me to leadership.  I strongly believe that leadership is not synonymous with position.  Long before I was a principal, I felt I was searching for ways to lead others - not to places I thought they should be but to where they wanted to go.  Part of being a leader was developing a strong sense of empathy in order to recognize what others wanted and finding ways to support them.  I watched for people who had a quest and asked:  How can I help you?  What do you need to be successful?

Early on in my career, leadership was mostly my work with children.  It came from the depths of caring, nurturing and helping them discover who they could be.  Gradually, it spread to my work with other teachers. I recognized the value of collaborating and learning from others.  I looked for ways to get conversations started and sustain the good work they were doing in classrooms.  It seems that in every position I held there were doors open for leadership experiences.  I had my own ideas to share but more so wanted to help others discover theirs.  I wanted to make an impact on the lives of others.  Maybe it is my own desire to leave a legacy - a legacy that doesn't showcase my accomplishments but the success of others.


Developing a Leadership Style 

For me, leadership is not taking a loud stance and demanding that people follow me.  It's about serving others and leading quietly from behind.  I have always loved this quote:

     A leader is best when people barely know he exists, not so good 
     when people obey and acclaim him, worse when they despise
     him ... But of a good leader who talks little when his work is 
     done, his aim fulfilled, they will say, "We did it ourselves."  
     ~  Lao Tzu

For some, this might be considered a weak form of leadership.  But I think I lead from example and from a strong belief system that is embedded in everything I do.  People know what I will stand up for.  They know what is important to me.  They recognize my non-negotiables.  Once I have established who I am and what I stand for, I can lead quietly and by example.  So I lead with words and actions.

I want others to believe in their own potential.  I want them to know that they choose their own paths.  They make their own choices.  They take their own risks and reap the rewards.  For me, leading means unlocking potential, connecting people, and promoting their independence - working myself into the background so they can lead themselves and begin to lead others. 

Leading is about building a community in which others can succeed.  At school, that means creating a network of collaborations that support learning and leading.  It's important to me that students as well as teachers have a strong voice in what happens at school. 

At this point in my life, I am searching for new ways to lead.  I am looking forward to participating in the principal mentorship opportunity and I continue to grow and learn.  That's the best part!