Although I had set up this blog site a short while back, I haven’t actually had the time or the inspiration to write my thoughts about all the great things I have been learning this year. I believe now is the time to share my thoughts and learn with like-minded professionals and education leaders. I have named this blog The Learning Leader because I believe that to be a great leader I must continue learning now and always. I will always be a learning leader.
Since this is my first post, let me start by telling you a bit about myself. I’m a reading teacher and I work with the NYC Board of Education. As a reading teacher, I’m constantly searching for ways to engage my students and empower them with the skills they need to achieve literacy independence. I collaborate with classroom teachers to provide my students with best instructional practices to help them become successful. I’m also an aspiring educational leader and I’m always intrigued by innovative ideas of leading successfully. Over the years I have learned that everything in an organization is interdependent and every component impacts the other. Evidently, I truly believe that effective leadership is the root of successful schools. Effective leaders guide and support teachers who in turn inspire learning and achievement for all children. As such, every decision and every action that district leaders, school administrators, teachers, staff and parents take part in directly impacts our children. In essence, we can all be leaders everyday if we are focused on improving the learning and growth of the individuals we serve.
Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of reading Susan Mazza’s report Leading Made Simple: 3 Ways ANYONE Can Lead Every Day. (You can request your free copy of the report at http://www.leadingmadesimple.co). I must admit that I had to stop and think about the title for a moment. “How can anyone just lead?” I wondered. I have always thought that leadership was something reserved for those who have the skills, power and charisma to be leaders. However, Ms. Mazza’s ideas put a whole new light on what leadership is all about. In a clear and easy to follow manner, she explains that anyone can lead successfully by focusing on the difference he or she wants to achieve through leadership.
Ms. Mazza establishes that leadership is not only about the what but the how. She indicates that it is not enough to be able to define leadership but to actually materialize it through our everyday behaviors. When we consider what leadership looks like, we focus on the behaviors and actions that distinguish leaders. Through my experiences in various schools, I have worked with effective and ineffective leaders. As I started creating my own leadership philosophy I thought about those leaders and how their behaviors set the standards about what effective leadership is all about. I believe that our effectiveness as leaders stems from our personal commitment to success.
“You don’t have to be THE leader to be a leader.” –Susan Mazza
Ms. Mazza compares acts of leadership to acts of kindness. When committing an act of kindness you do it with the intention of helping others in some way; the act is rewarding for both sides. Similarly, when performing acts of leadership successful leaders lead with the purpose of helping and empowering others to grow. Their growth and success is reflective of the inevitable success of the leader. This comparison made me realize that I commit many acts of leadership everyday even though I do not yet hold an official leadership title. As Ms. Mazza indicates, “You don’t have to be THE leader to be a leader.” As such, when we think of leadership in this way anyone can be a leader if his leadership behavior is driven by purpose, commitment and a genuine desire to serve.
Ms. Mazza helps readers identify their unique purpose for leading as she poses the question, “What difference do you want to make through YOUR leadership?” This question forced me to stop and think about my own values and how they inspire my purpose for wanting to lead. This is how I respond to this powerful question:
I want to inspire those I work with to realize their strengths and potential for success. I want to empower them with the skills and capacity to improve learning and achievement for themselves and others. I want to create an environment that is positive, nurturing and driven by a desire for ongoing learning. I want everyone in my learning organization to be committed to the fulfillment of our goals and always place kids first when making any decision.
I think that once we understand the purpose for leading we will be clear and explicit on how our actions will work to achieve that purpose. Our personal code of ethics is what drives us to do what is right and empowers us to lead forward. “Being the most effective leader you can be requires that you become the most powerful expression of yourself rather than attempt to emulate someone else,” Ms. Mazza states. This makes me think of the notion of leading from the heart. Through the years I’ve learned that I perform best as a teacher when I do what is best for my students at any given time. I learned to trust my instincts and do what my heart tells me is right despite mandates and outlandish initiatives that attempt to deter us from what matters most- the kids. When you are yourself you lead with your personal values not those of others. This genuine commitment is what fuels our powerful acts of leadership everyday regardless of how small they may be.
I’m grateful to have the opportunity to be enlightened by Ms. Mazza’s powerful words. As I continue to learn and grow from distinguished leaders like Susan Mazza, I must always self-reflect on my own thoughts and leadership behaviors.
“Leadership development is a lifelong journey to become the most powerful expression of you–who you can be to make the biggest possible difference you can make.” –Susan Mazza