Why is a leader:leader culture better than a leader:follower culture? For so many reasons, but ultimately, it is boiled down into one idea.
Our work is too important. After all, we touch lives forever. We make lasting impacts that have enormous ripple effects. I am but one person. Together, however, we can do the impossible.
We have spent the last two years at our school developing and nurturing a leader:leader culture where every single staff member is a leader. Below are five ways that have been game changers for us on that journey.
Cast your vision of a shared leadership culture.
Communicate your vision immediately and often. Great leaders deliver an inspiring and clear vision from day one. Make sure your team knows what your passions are and how those passions connect to your vision. When I came on board my new school, I didn’t even wait until our first staff meeting. I made a video and sent it out to so that they could get a sneak peek at who I am and what I’m about. I knew I’d need to spend most of my first year learning the school, our team, and developing a shared vision with them, but I needed them inspired and learning about my core values from the beginning.
I let them know from that day on, that my vision was for them to be leaders. While being leaders within their classroom and our school was important and necessary to our greatness, I also spoke of my vision of their leadership in the larger education world. What I also communicated within my vision was that we would build a school community together where everyone had a voice and each member had a seat at the table. I continued to communicate this part of my vision while connecting it to different situations and decisions in order to clarify it.
Use empowering language.
This one is so easy yet often overlooked. If I expect our teachers to be leaders, I need to use that word. When I send an email, I may start if off by saying “Hello fabulous Taylor Mill Leaders!” If I’m tweeting a celebration, I refer to them as leaders. At the start of school last year, all staff members were welcomed with new name tags and business cards. The title on each? “Leader.” If I am important enough to network and connect with others using my business cards, then so are our teachers, secretaries, cafeteria staff and custodians. They all have name tags and business cards that say they are leaders.
Make their leadership development a priority.
Using words can certainly change a story, but there also needs to be action to support the talk. I make sure that not only am I developing each of them within their roles, but I also focus on growing them as leaders. This may sound complicated and you may be wondering how you have time to fit anything else on you or your teachers’ plates, but my suggestion is to make it natural. I do simple things like sharing my learning with them. When I read a leadership article that strikes a chord with me, I may share it in our weekly staff newsletter. If I listen to a podcast that I know would be a good fit for one of my leaders, I share it with them. Often, I use our morning huddles to feed them with leadership insights and inspirations.
Shatter the information silos and create opportunity.
A lack of information is never a good thing in any situation and certainly not when you’re trying to build a shared leadership culture. Information leads to ownership and understanding and, in turn, both of those lead to empowerment. We are extremely transparent with information and use digital tools to communicate and collaborate. Within our digital infrastructure, all of our staff have the same level of access that I and our admin team have. I regularly discuss with them the reasoning behind decisions, but better yet, we involve them in the decisions. If the situation requires that I can’t share information, I share that. Ultimately, as the quote from Beth Houf and Shelley Burgess says, when you involve your people in authentic ways, progress is faster and the changes are sustainable.
The other piece to this step is to seek out opportunities for your team members and connect them to positions and projects where their greatness can shine. This requires strong relationships and knowing your team members on a level that takes time and focus. But when you point out a staff member’s genius, make them and others aware of it, and then allow them to plug into work that takes advantage of those strengths, a bright light will shine for all.
Get over yourself.
This may sound harsh, but I know in order for us to move forward on our path to greatness, I must take my responsibility seriously but never myself. I try my best to make sure our team members feel supported and we have clarity around our vision and next steps, but once that has occurred, I get out of their way. I must check my ego at the door and remind myself that none of this work, our school, being what our kids need and deserve, is ever about me.
How could you amplify your school, and ultimately, you students’ success by building those on your team as leaders? What else would you add to this list?