At Holdsworth, we don’t believe leadership is about titles. It’s about influence. True leaders are able to mobilize others to solve problems and drive positive change. But that change must start from within.
In our 2-year programs for District and Campus Leaders, we begin by developing personal leadership because when Leaders are willing to grow and change, others are motivated to follow.
Developing personal leadership is rooted in:
• A deep connection to purpose
• An ability to manage physical, mental, and emotional resources
• The willingness and ability to identify areas for growth and actively improve
Too often, educators operate on the brink of burnout, partly because they work in a culture where such behavior is expected or allowed to continue unchecked. This leads to negative consequences for students, including teacher turnover and high tension levels among the adults in the building. Like any parent knows, when the adults are stressed, the kids are stressed.
Those who lead others have a special responsibility to create a culture where everyone is encouraged to build positive habits and to manage their personal resources in healthy ways. The best way to do that is to model those behaviors themselves.
Forming new habits and making them stick is difficult for everyone. To give you some inspiration as we head into a new school year, we asked one of our Leaders who has built new, positive habits into her daily routine to share her story.
During staff development this year, I brought an old Holly Hobbie poster I peeled from the wall of my garage. I can remember getting it from a Hallmark store when I was in 3rd grade (I’m 55, I’ll let you do the math). In the poster, Holly is cradling a little rabbit, gazing lovingly at the little creature in her arms.
For me, this poster has served as a reminder throughout my 30-year career in education to always make my classroom and school a place where children feel loved, cared for and nurtured. If that doesn’t happen, everything else we do to educate them is in vain.
That allowed me to segue into another important lesson I have learned, this one more recently: You can only care for others when you care for yourself.
This past year I had the honor of participating in The Holdsworth Center’s Campus Leadership Program. In the first session, we were asked to reflect on what really matters to us. The timing was perfect. More than likely, I am in the last act of my career. For the first time, a truth that I had ignored for many decades grabbed my attention with a sense of urgency. If I don’t take care of myself physically, mentally and emotionally, I cannot be my best for the people I serve. Is that the legacy I want to leave?
Like many in our field, I tend to put myself last. I give everything to the job and by the time I get home, I’m sitting on “E.”
Working with my leadership coach, Barry, I focused on setting goals around a healthier lifestyle, as well as growing those around me to leave a legacy of strong leaders who can pick up the baton and run with it when I retire.
One example of how I have grown those around me is through my school’s focus on improving student writing, a problem we chose to tackle as part of the Holdsworth program. Based upon teachers’ feedback and input, we overhauled our school schedule to allow more time for writing. I must admit, I had reservations about whether it was the right move. But I listened to our teachers and trusted their judgment. While it’s too early to declare success, preliminary results are promising, and I am proud of the inclusive way we reached our decision.
Other changes I’ve made may seem small to some, but for me they are a big shift. They are helping me to refill my tank so that I show up every day with the energy and optimism I need to serve faculty and students to the best of my ability. These three practices have made the difference for me:
- Exercise – My goal was to exercise three days a week and I have been faithful. Whether riding my stationary bike at home or walking along our neighborhood trail, I am keeping track of my steps to ensure I keep moving. It has the added benefit of clearing my mind and sparking good ideas.
- Meditation – First thing in the morning, I get out of bed, go to my chair in the living room and spend 10 minutes meditating or praying. I use the Insight Timer app to access free guided meditations. At night, I repeat the process before bed, only this time I reflect on what happened that day. What things can I celebrate? What could I do better next time? This is where I find my peace.
- Self-Care Breaks – Once a month, I schedule an activity that I find restorative. For me, that includes spending time with family or friends, going away for the weekend with my husband or taking a spa day. When I come back, I feel refreshed, renewed and ready to go again. The trick is to be intentional about it – if you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen! It’s up to you to make sure that it does.