I can’t think of a better time of the year to read a series of blog posts about what inspires leaders to continue to lead with the same passion, enthusiasm, and perseverance they had when they first became leaders. While at the same time, I can’t think of a more challenging time for me to be writing this post. This is my thirteenth year as an administrator. It is April, and I am in the crux of the school year with so many major projects, initiatives, and must-dos underway. I have caught myself trying to slip into a “it’s the most craziest time of the year to be a principal funk,” and though I may dwell in that space for a few days, or weeks depending on the intensity of what is going on around me, fortunately, I am able to pull myself from the dark abyss by remembering the following leadership truths.
Leading is a privilege. Being chosen to lead students, staff, and a community is not something we should take lightly. We were chosen for this role for a reason. So much of what we do, and what we fail to do for that matter, determines the success, or lack thereof, of our students and staff. Our attitude about our roles should be that we get the opportunity to serve each day instead of being focused on all the daily tasks that must get done. Let’s face it, we asked for these positions. And yes, while at times it can be overwhelming, we still occupy the seat that so many deeply desire to obtain. Leading is not for the faint at heart, and although desired by so many, few are chosen to assume the role.
Leave it better than you found it. There is nothing more humbling than transitioning out of a school you have poured your heart and soul into leading. There is no perfect school or perfect leader. When I left my first principalship, I began to think about all the things I was unable to accomplish. It wasn’t until I refocused my thinking and began to think about what we were able to accomplish as a school under my leadership that I was able to appreciate the journey. Take time to focus on your leadership accomplishments, both individually and collectively. The school that you lead should be better because you lead it. If there is not an indelible mark as an imprint of your leadership on the lives of the students and staff you served, and in the fabric of the school culture that shows you were there, what was the purpose of the journey?
Surround yourself with excellence. I always tell my staff that I don’t have all the answers, but I am wise enough to surround myself with a strong PLN that is equipped to help me with my leadership challenges and dilemmas. Each year I strive to become a better version of myself. We must seek to challenge ourselves as individuals so that we don’t become irrelevant. If we are not growing each year as leaders, we are on our way to becoming irrelevant, ineffective, and unfocused. If you don’t have other leaders around you who make you better, find leaders who challenge your thinking and encourage you to be excellent.
Stay centered on your why. As leaders, it is critical to make sure that we revisit our why often. When we are able to remember why we chose to serve as a leader, it helps to center us on our leadership journey. Leading others is not an easy task. I think it gets more challenging and taxing the longer one serves. Focusing on our why gives us purpose. It is important to recognize that when we lead outside of our why we are guaranteed to lose our purpose and our way.
No one ever said this journey would be easy. In fact, I am not sure if I would appreciate the role if that were the case. Not all people are cut out for this level of leadership and that should motivate us enough to keep going. Find others who understand and appreciate the journey and make sure you become a better version of yourself each year. If you are the same leader that you were the year before and have absolutely no desire to get better, then please move out of the way so someone else who is on fire for leadership can lead. Respect the role, understand the position, stay committed to growth, and keep the leadership torch burning. You can do this!
Dr. Sanée Bell - Dr. Bell is the principal of Morton Ranch Junior High in Katy, TX. She has served as an administrator since 2005 at both the elementary and secondary levels. Sanée was recognized as the 2015 Katy ISD Elementary Principal of the Year. Prior to becoming an administrator, Sanée taught middle school and high school English and also coached girls basketball. She earned her doctorate degree in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston Clear Lake, where she currently serves as an adjunct professor. Sanée is passionate about authentic, purposeful learning for students and teachers, and also has a strong passion for leadership and its impact on teacher engagement, student learning and school culture. Sanée recognizes her impact as a leader and uses her role to inspire, motivate, and empower others. Sanée has presented at local, state, national and international conferences, and has written publications and several guest blog posts focused on leadership and its impact on students and teachers. Sanée shares her thoughts on leadership on her blog saneebell.com and via Twitter @SaneeBell.