Why the Best School Leaders Give Back and Step Back

The new school year is fast approaching. And that means schools across the country will see many new faces entering their halls.

But we’re not just talking about new students and teachers; many superintendents will be entering their offices for the first time as well. And while on-the-job training is all well and good, it’s critical to be as prepared as possible.

The first step is establishing a solid plan of action before you ever sit behind the superintendent’s desk. As veteran superintendent Dr. Gerald Dawkins explained in a recent webinar, Make the right move early: A four-step guide to the first 100 days of school superintendency, having a clear strategic plan in place-and adhering to it-is key.

But what happens when those first 100 days are over?

While every school leader’s experience will be unique, there are a few key principles every superintendent should keep in mind.

On his blog, Leading with Trust, leadership expert Randy Conley writes that there are three key sacrifices every successful leader needs to make-and school leaders are no different.

Whether you’re beginning your tenure as a superintendent or you’re a returning veteran, keeping these principles in mind could be the difference between success and failure.

Give your time
I know, I know-making more time for others in your already ridiculously busy schedule is easier said than done.

But being there to listen and help others, especially parents and students, as much as possible just might make your tenure a true success.

Writes Conley: “One of the primary ways leaders build trust is by investing time in their personal relationships with their followers. Nothing communicates care and support to a team member more than a leader giving of his or her time.”

So, take extra time to talk with staff members, parents, and stakeholders, whether it’s through face-to-face conversations, community meetings, phone calls, or email exchanges.

It takes work to develop solid, long-lasting relationships, but those relationships can pay huge dividends.

Lose the ego
“Leaders with big egos hog the spotlight and take credit for their teams’ success,” says Conley. “Conversely, good leaders shine the spotlight on their team when they experience success, while personally taking the blame when the team fails.”

Bottom line: The best school leaders know it’s not all about them.

They understand that giving their staff and students the best tools for success should be their No. 1 priority, no matter if they get the credit in the end.

They also know that great ideas can come from anywhere. Not being open to the thoughts of your staff, parents, and other community members could mean missing out on your next great initiative.

In the end, you a lead a team. One with a vital purpose. And while we won’t resort to any “no I in team” clichés, as you move past your first 100 days always remember your team’s success is your success.

Take a step back
You’ve heard the phrase “leading from behind.”

While it may be easier said than done (especially in times of controversy or crisis), sometimes the best thing you can do as a school leader is let your staff do what it was hired to do.

This doesn’t mean disengaging from what’s going on in your schools. It means having confidence in your cabinet and teachers, and giving them what they need to excel.

Writes Conley: “True leadership is other-focused. It’s about investing in other people to help them succeed, even if it’s at the expense of the leader’s own self-interest.”

While it may be in your nature to micromanage, trusting others is the best quality you can have as a leader.

How do you support your staff and community? What advice do you have for new superintendents? Tell us in the comments.

Looking for a way to include your community’s voice in your decisions? Make sure you understand their priorities and concerns.

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