Saturday, November 1, 2014

My Experiences with School Leadership

Leadership is a topic that is often on my mind.  I've seen so much.  I've seen how everything rises and falls on leadership.  I've seen how good leadership can make a school or break a school (or a church or any organization).

After 35 years of teaching, in two different schools, with multiple layers of leadership, I've seen many leaders and leadership styles.  For better or for worse.  My first school was part of a much larger university structure, so on top of the school principal, we had upper-level administration.  My second school is part of a church structure, so on top of the school administrator, we have the pastor/school president as well as other administrative personnel.

I've seen it all.  Or most all.  I've worked directly under seven principal/administrators or assistants, and multiple upper-level management authorities.  Sometimes it seems like the rank and file are the ones who stick around - the leadership is always changing.

The following will be written in plural form, and will not be in any chronological or reverse chronological order, so that no one person is incriminated.  I'm also going to mix up the good and the bad, as well as give different aspects of the same leaders in different sentences.  I've seen:

--Leaders who had absolutely no aptitude for running the day-to-day workings of a school.  They were great at being upfront and PR people, but did not "get" the workings.  The teachers, in meetings, were always far ahead in solving problems than the leadership.

--Leaders who managed people beautifully.  Parents could come in to the office, furious about whatever had happened or was going on, and would come out with a smile on their face.  There was one administrator who, even many years later, when in a difficulty I always think "How would ___ handle this?"

--Leaders who were clueless as to what was going on around them.  The building could be in complete disrepair, and the staff getting more and more resentful about the detachment of the leadership, but the top brass would be in denial - either unwittingly or knowingly.

--Leaders who were quietly but consistently on top of everything that was going on.  This is the kind of leadership that is not fully appreciated - until it is gone.

--Leaders who were quite visionary, having many things going on at once and many ideas for new ways of doing things and new ways of change.

--Leaders who did not fully recognize the need for supervision on a daily basis.

--Leaders who were dominators and who ruled with a mighty hand, who insisted that their vision was the only one that mattered and all others were to kowtow to them and their program.

--Leaders who examined every side of an issue, making sure that all bases were covered and possible problems examined before even considering whether to implement any new ideas.

--Leaders who never changed the schedule or calendar.

--Leaders who changed the schedule or the calendar at a moment's notice.

--Leaders who never called a snow day.

--Leaders who called a snow day at a moment's (or snowflake's) notice.

--Leaders who showed a refreshing spirit of new ideas and ways to complement the program.

--Leaders who showed a refreshing spirit of continuity without constantly injecting new ideas and ways to complement the program.

--Leaders who had no respect for their employees' time and personal life.

--Leaders who had utmost respect for their employees' time and personal life.

--Leaders who thought that just saying "I am the (boss, administrator, president of the school)" was all they had to do.

--Leaders who were rarely seen.

--Leaders who were everywhere, pitching in, a part of things, doing whatever needed to be done.

--Leaders whose work ethic was perceived to be weak by the staff.

--Leaders whose hard work ethic was a stellar example to the employees who worked for them.

And finally,

--Leaders who have much to answer for when they meet the Lord; as well as

--Leaders who will receive a "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" when they meet the Lord.


Barbara H. said...

Even though I am not a teacher, I have seen several of these kinds of leaders. I think some of the most effective are the ones who can see things from others' points of view. One whom I chafed under the most was one who said he was the "idea guy" and depended on others to implement the ideas - but then had no realization of the burden he was putting on others or how they'd have to scramble around to accomplish his ideas. He told a lady who was planning a special anniversary event for the church (that was taking weeks to get together with a lot of helpers), "You might as well decorate for Christmas before the event" - usually an all day activity in itself. Sigh.

On the other hand, this is why I don't aspire to leadership - I don't think I have all the good qualities. Yet sometimes the Lord has gently "pushed" me into the role. It has stretched me, and I have been grateful for it, but I am glad I am not in a leadership position just now. :-)

Ann said...

Barbara, I really appreciate your comments. With us being "middle-aged," we've both seen a lot!!

Shelena said...

This is a great article and absolutely true. I have been in 4 schools and have had 8 administrators. I am a firm believer that a real true godly administrator is not self- serving and has a genuine concern for those working under him. There are not many that fit this category.
On another note, you fit that in my book. Thanks for the example you are to me. Love you.

Lou Ann Keiser said...

Good post, Ann! Everything you said can be applied EVERYWHERE--in the workplace, church, school . . . . The next post needs to be "What Makes the Best Leader."