SAVMP: Developing Leaders

I sit here watching my kids play a bit before bed on the night before the first day of school. Sort of a calm before the storm really as tomorrow morning will be intense from 5:30am when my wife and I get up to at least 7:30 when I drop the kids at the sitter. Oh yeah, then I have to go to my school and start my career as principal!! That too.

So I sit here wondering about tomorrow and wondering about what kind of an impression I will make with my first staff meeting and if I can support this amazing school and help the teachers on staff to be the best that they can be. Can I be the one to oversee the whole place and all the inner workings of a campus with over 1400 students, 94 teachers and about 130 staff all together? I like my chances but there are so many questions and so I guess the best thing I can do is to reflect on something more basic or at least focussed. I will take a look at what my one major goal is. LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT.

Some people think that leadership development is about letting go of authority and letting people manage themselves. I think this is overly simplified and not very doable. The simple truth is that any organization needs someone who will make some of the final decisions and be the one responsible for those decisions. If I am going to be the one held accountable for the things that happen in my school, then I have to make sure that those things are generally things I agree with. That being said, I will need a lot of help and many different perspectives to fully understand the issues and problems that are presented to me and to see where there are opportunities for growth.

Hearing and valuing these perspectives is my idea of Leadership Development. I said before that there has to be someone ultimately responsible for any organization and I guess in a school that is the principal. I am in that position now but this is a first for me. That means that I have never been the one ultimately responsible before but that does not mean that I have not gone through a process of leadership development. I have been able to be a voice at the table where decisions were made and that has been what prepared me for this job. When I was a VP there was a lot of conversations with my principals discussing the ins and outs of decisions and when I was a teacher I was lucky enough to work in a school where innovation and consultation were a normal part of every day, so I honestly felt like I was part of the decision making process. I need to develop this feeling with my staff.

To start, I have 2 VPs that will be invaluable as we move through a very busy year but I have to think about how to mentor and assist in their growth. Even if they have no desire to be a principal, they will want to be a part of the decisions being made. They need to know that the decisions we all must stand by have come about because of our discussions, not just after them.

As far as teachers go, this is incredibly important but also requires a lot more work. How can I make each individual on a staff of 94 teachers feel ownership of the school? How do I create opportunities for their voice to be heard on as many issues as possible without allowing the administration of the school to grind to a halt? Not sure of these but I will certainly look to these:

  • STEERING COMMITTEE: not sure how to set this one up exactly but I like the idea of having a group (probably elected by the staff), to consult with in regards to decisions about the movement and direction of the school.
  • TECH (BUDGET) COMMITTEE : not sure which I will use but I think that the staff needs to have input into what direction I take with the budget. The money is not mine to spend, but to use to support teachers. The principal needs to keep an overall view of the school, a “macro” perspective I guess, but the voices of all need to be heard.
  • DEPARTMENT HEADS : in a secondary school this is an interesting and very useful group. These individuals are charged with a leadership role already in the school and have to dance that line a bit in an unionized environment. I need to support their leadership journey and value and seek out their input and advice on matters that impact their departments and the school as a whole as well.
  • SUPPORT STAFF : These are really the ones that keep the school running but oddly probably have their opinions heard the least of anyone in the school. This has to change without them feeling out of their element or having too much asked of them.

There will be lots of other things to consider as I look to develop leadership and learning in my first year as a principal, but I know that if I keep my eye on the idea that all the faces I see each day have something to offer, (even if it is a measure of how bad an idea can be!), and my ears open to those offerings, then I am confident that the year will be a good one and the natural leaders will make themselves known.

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One Response to SAVMP: Developing Leaders

  1. Great reflection Mike. In addition to your learning curve at the school, and your support for (and from) the staff and students, you will also have the support of many colleagues and a whole system of leaders with vast experience. I look forward to seeing further reflections and to your sharing at Principal meetings and at the Succession Series. Good luck tomorrow – be yourself – they’ll love you!

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