I think it’s safe to say that every one of us has worked underneath someone who didn’t lead. A person who was in a place of power, of leadership, but the ship was sailing without a captain. I know for both of us (Adam & Todd), we’ve worked under administrators who scream, who went to jail, who were amazing, and one who was more like “he who shall not be named”.
The image of a ship is one that we use often. A ship can sit on the water and float without a captain leading it. But ships weren’t designed to just sit or rock back and forth. Ships can also head out onto choppy water, but if there is no leader behind the wheel the ship can run ashore, hit something, or go in the completely opposite direction of where you thought you were headed. A ship needs a captain. A ship needs someone who can take the wheel and steer the boat in the right direction. Ships need a compass - purpose - crew and their sails pointed in the right direction to harness the wind! But not only a ship needs a captain who KNOWS how to lead. This quote by Saint Exupery is so true, “If you want to build a ship, don’t gather people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather, teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea”
One of the hardest things for a teacher is working on a campus where the leader doesn’t lead. Leaders need to be actively in classrooms. They need to have a clear vision of where things are headed. But leaders also need to take the heat when necessary and need to admit failure. Leaders need to take risks, push boundaries, and consistently make decisions that are in the best interest of every child and know when to lean on others, when to ask for help, and how to make others shine brightest.
And the same goes for district leadership. Campus Administrators also need strong leadership from those above them. They need someone who has a vision and stands firm. They need someone who is willing to lead them and help them grow. What’s the message when your leader isn’t learning? They don’t ‘believe’ social media, can’t wrap their head around ‘Tweeting’ or blogging about their districts story. What do you do if your district Technology Director isn’t using any tools to connect and learn online? Where are they learning from? How can they lead a district to relevancy?
When leaders don’t lead, you lose your “superstars” and no one grows. Those exceptional leaders and teachers will leave a campus/district who doesn’t have strong leadership. They’ll go in search of someone who will grow them, push them, challenge them. They’ll look for a leader. Not a warm body in an office. Don’t let your briefcase hit the ground and never move again. We must constantly be moving, growing, learning, pushing, failing, falling - and then getting up stronger and smarter than we were before!
Leaders have to lead. They have to take control of their ships and create a shared vision and admit when they make mistakes. For when a ship has no leader, it’s not being used the way it was designed to be used.