The Importance of Leadership

If you have been regularly following my blog, I apologize for taking so long getting this last post out. As a teacher, this was my first week back to full time work and I’m still trying to find the balance that lets me write often.

I was inspired to write this post on Wednesday, which was our first full day as a staff. The day before school starts for students is usually a day that administrators use to prepare and motivate teachers. This is my fourth such day, with my fourth principal in two states. I should preface this by saying that I am extremely critical of administrators. I am more offended when I see laziness, hypocrisy, or incompetence in school administrators that most others simply because their actions directly affect the lives and development of, in the case, over 900 students and 100 teachers.

This was without a doubt the best first day that I have been a part of. There were several reasons for this that reflect the leadership capabilities of the administrative team. Two of the previous years consisted of about 7 hours of paperwork being read to us with some time to possibly prepare our classrooms. Last year was slightly better because the teachers were able to go to different stations to hear different people tell them the requisite information; however, it was still basically the same day packaged in nicer wrapping. This year was refreshingly different. If you read my post from July 30, you know my feelings on most in-services are less than optimistic.

The day started with each administrator sharing the personal story from their lives of why they do what they do. Sharing your testimony is tremendously effective in many situations. It can help you to connect with students in your class and to share the love of Christ effectively with others. Afterwards, the teachers did the same in groups, which promoted confidence in each other as well as started to build healthy working relationships.

Second, the administrators as a team modeled several aspects of both good leaders and good teachers. I like that they made a point to identify servant leadership by actually cooking breakfast for the staff and discussing how the idea can be beneficial in the classroom.

Overall, the day consisted more of activities designed to build relationships between colleagues, motivate the teachers, and bring focus to what is most important, helping the students. Also important, each school has to develop a school improvement plan for the state of TN. One critical part of that is the values statement. Usually, administrators assign certain teachers to a SIPS team that has almost full control over the school improvement plan and what goes in it. As teachers, we did an activity where we had to reach a consensus about what our most important values are and why. This encouraged teacher participation and buy in to the school and the mission. This is important to do with students as well. Giving them a choice over how things work in the classroom lets them feel like the classroom is theirs and, when that happens, they will want to participate and do well.

There are many aspects of leadership that cannot all be dealt with in a short post. I just want to highlight those that stood out to me. First, as was mentioned, we can only lead if our heart is in the right place and we are willing to serve our students and others faithfully. As it says in the Bible, “Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Second, we have to lead by example and model what we want to see in others. I believe it was Gandhi who said “Be the change you want to see in the world.” If your example is sound and upright, others will follow it. Finally, we need to endeavor to lead the same lives in public as in private. We cannot optimally lead others when we cannot control our own lives and feel the need to hide it and put on a façade for the public.

Everyone leads sometimes; no one leads all the time. We should hold the leaders in our lives to high standards. It is imperative, though, that we keep a distinction between the leaders and the goal. I know too many people personally who have fallen because of trust in a leader without a foundation. For example, if I found out my pastor is cheating on his wife, I am not going to stop pursuing God and telling others about Him. If my principle decides to quit in the middle of the year (this actually happened), I am not going to lose sight of trying to reach the students. Leaders can help us to achieve goals, but they themselves are not the goals or our foundations. Leaders are human and all will at sometime let us down, as we will do to others. We need to be understanding of that and keep the leader’s failure to the specific context in which it happened, not generalizing it to a whole group of people.

At the very least, we are leaders in our families, and that is no small thing. Husbands and wives each have their own unique strengths. They must recognize that and mutually submit to each other. Keeping Christ as the goal and center of the marriage will help to keep them focused. Parents need to be examples and lead their children. We cannot expect school, church, television, and others to raise our children. We need to raise them up in the way that they should go so that they do not depart from it (paraphrased from Proverbs 22:6). No one can take on this responsibility for us. We cannot be effective leaders anywhere until we are effective leaders in our homes.

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