For years, the myth of a lone instructional leader has been a common phenomenon. The tiresome idea of a superhero leader capable of steering the ship in rainstorms made many principals stressed out when things went wrong. But now things have changed. Leadership now has a different concept. Generally, we all accept that leading must be done through active collaboration, where teachers, administrators, and students contribute significantly.
This does not mean school leaders are no longer responsible for the way schools grow. Of course, they are central to the success or failure of a school. An incredible school leader can motivate his staff to steer away from the brink of collapse, while a terrible one might ruin even the most reputable gifted school in the city.
So, who are you, and are you capable of changing your schools for the better? This piece, inspired by Baruti Kafele’s book “Is your school better because you lead it?”, will measure your effectiveness by exploring your leadership identity, mission, purpose, and vision.
Identity – Who are You as a Leader?
Take a little time to ask yourself this: Who are you in the eyes of your staff, teachers, and students? Have you constructed a unique identity that impacts your school's culture, climate, and overall achievement? Is how you see yourself consistent with how others view you? Do you picture yourself as a warm, compassionate principal – the motivator? Or are you firm and stick to the rules and disciplines because you believe everyone should be treated fairly on a common framework - the commander?
There is no "right" way when it comes to identity formation. But what you choose to become will shape how people see you. If you decide to be a motivator, you will gain the affection of employees and they will probably look up to you as a caring nurturer. On the other hand, if you are a commander, your staff will come to you for professional advice. You might not be the most lighthearted and welcoming principal, but they are likely to look at you with respect.
Therefore, constructing your leadership identity is an essential step to take as you begin to embark on a leading journey. At the end of the day, you have to be sure of your goal as a school leader. Take your time to explore your preference and gain clarity on your role.
Mission – What Drives You to Lead?
Start asking yourself about your long-term mission and whether your mission aligns with that of your school. Are you working for the best interest of your students? Are your missions reflected in your school's curriculum, assessment, or data?
It's imperative that your driving mission is specific and that your actions closely align with it. When teachers and students see you honoring your long-term goals, they will be much more confident in matching their performance regarding this mission. They will be invigorated to work hard and strive for the moon when their leaders pave the way. One inspiring mission can be:
Even if most of my students grow in poverty, I will make it my lifelong mission to help them achieve the impossible.
Purpose – Why are You Here?
You have a leadership identity and a mission; where are you going from here? Start asking the why and the how questions to your leadership. Now you probably know what you are supposed to do as school leaders: the laws to follow and the tasks to complete. But why are you doing this? What is your purpose?
Like your mission, your "why" drives what you say and do daily. But there are core differences between mission and purpose though. Your mission can be professional: what the school and your students need. You tend to think about the big picture when it comes to setting the right mission. On the other hand, purpose is more personal. It is the driving force, your own set of individual needs that make you stay on top of your mission. An example would be “raising students’ literacy skills” as a mission, and “empowering students” as a purpose.
Vision – Where are You Going from Here?
A great leader has a short-term vision to meet immediate needs, and a long-term vision to meet future needs. In this phase, you should probably ask yourself these questions: How will you improve and become more effective in leading? Where are your schools, and especially you going from this point? Envision the answers to these crucial questions, as they will set the guidelines for your school's future and the success of your students.