Tag Archives: Servant Leadership

More Leadership Reflections

1 Oct


I have worked under some amazing principals. In my years as a teacher, they have been very different, mentors of varying degrees, in different environments. Looking back now, I am SO thankful for how different. Above all else they encouraged me.

I’m a big note taker just ask my wife…so I have kept a list of the traits I felt made them so successful and hope to emulate this year. Here are some:

  • servant leader- the boss who puts everyone else’s’ needs before their own, who is willing to do what it takes to make others feel successful
  • big pictureR- one who sees the vision, who knows what they want the educational experience to be for their students
  • willing- willing to dance, willing to be Batman, willing to let teachers try
  • teacher friendly- someone who cares how decisions and changes affect teachers, not in the sense that they don’t make changes or tough decisions, but in that they care
  • tradition minded- recognizes what it looks like to build a legacy and maintains traditions that matter to students, parents, & staff
  • fun- from funny announcements, to jokes and stories in staff meetings, to running jokes with teachers from years ago
  • confident- able to step in and handle all different situations, with purpose, with heart, with decisiveness

The Language of Leadership

11 Sep


As I evaluate my own role as a leader I have been noticing the way I speak. So much is portrayed in body language but even more in the way we say things which may be innocent. I am not ashamed to say I have used these phrases in the past. My challenge is to use these phrases more in the future. I read this article (noted below) during the week. Here is some of the main points.

Some key phrases I must change:

  1. Because I said so.

Great leadership means building a culture of collaboration and connection, creativity and communication. Relying on authority shuts all those things down.

Instead: “How do we want to tackle this?”

  1. Who do you think you are?

Great leaders foster feelings of empowerment and engagement in their team, so everyone can reap the benefits of shared ideas and thoughts. There’s no room for ridicule or belittlement.

Instead: “What do you think?”

  1. It’s not my fault.

To be a great leader means you accept the consequences for your own actions as well as the actions of others. There’s an up side: Your leadership gains credibility.

Instead: “The buck stops here.”

  1. I don’t need any help.

Leadership is all about teamwork, collaboration, making everyone feel included and inspired. The best use of your time is mentoring, guiding, and leading others to succeed.

Instead: “We’ll do it together.”

  1. I don’t care.

Great leaders always care. When you express apathy, even about a small point, those around you have very little reason to stay invested.

Instead: “Let’s think this through.”

  1. I’m too busy.

We all make time for things that matter to us. When you set a priority for yourself, you set it for your team as well.

Instead: “I’ll find the time.”

  1. Failure is not an option.

Sure, success is important, but failure is not the enemy of success. Failure can teach valuable lessons–and those who are afraid to fail will build a culture that rewards bland, safe choices.

Instead: “Be bold. Take risks. Always learn.”

For further reading on this please read the full article by Lolly Daskal.

Being a Top Principal

27 Jul


While meeting with my critical friend this week we got into an interesting discussion about being a principal. I have been in girls’ schools for some eight years now after nine years in boy’s schools. I must admit the experience has made me a better practitioner and leader. I believe that men and women can be equally as effective as school principals. I have noted that at times women work harder to prove they are the equal of men.
I believe that a good principal is a gentle principal. I have developed my own understanding of “Gentle”, in the development of my idea of Gentle Leadership. My own servant leadership beliefs meet well with this. I see my own leadership like well-tanned leather. The metaphor in this is that well-tanned leather has an external surface that is tough, resilient and flexible. The right thing is done for the right reasons. Gentle leadership has none of the brittle nature of glass, nor the inflexibility and sharpness of steel.
Gentle leadership implies that the leader listens to all, considers well, considers the philosophy and background of the context and then tries to develop solutions with wisdom and sensitivity, combined with determination to challenge those who want the wrong things for the wrong reasons. To me, this kind of leadership is not gender specific. It requires a personal philosophy, empathy and a solid dose of determination. Men and women are equally capable of this kind of leadership.

I’ve been thinking…

4 May

As a member of a Senior Leadership Team in a secondary school I take time over the holidays to reflect, think, write and read. And I mean read. I have an addiction. I admit it. I love to lose myself in fiction and nonfiction alike. I digress this week I have read and reflected about leadership and what is good leadership.

When you’re in the presence of great leaders, you just know it. Their energy is infectious, they inspire with ease, and when they speak about their mission, you want to get involved. Some of my best friends have these though will deny it. As I have written before you are not born with it. You develop it.

What I have done here is summed up my Big 5 if you like.

1. Treat people well. Look no further than Luke 6:31. This is not easy. When you think about it, this requires trust, going that bit further doing anything to insure that their emotional and professional needs are being met. This type of care requires time, a willingness to invest financially in your people, and an ongoing commitment to evolving how that’s executed.

2. Be humble. This hard but this moves us from good to great

3. Walk your talk – all the time. Saying one thing and doing another is a common trap that leaders find themselves in. Most of the time, it’s not intentional.

4. Have a clear mission and moral purpose. Great leaders aren’t driven by financial gain. They do what they do because they have a higher calling. Here I go back to the Kiwi Leadership Model. Awhinatanga. Awhinatanga is about having empathy with groups and individuals in the school community. By being able to appreciate the point of view of others, leaders can help build a strong learning cultures if the store is living the mission and purpose. And Manaakitanga: Leading with moral purpose. Effective leaders have a central belief system that is focused on student learning and well-being. They set clear goals, and pursue them to ensure success for all. They focus on closing the gaps between the highest and lowest-achieving students in order to raise learning standards and outcomes for all. They create schools that welcome and include all members of the community.

5. Keep asking questions and being Ako. Great leaders are non-stop learners and they know they don’t have all the answers. Ako is about building collaborative learning and teaching relationships within the school. It suggests a reciprocal approach to leading learning. When principals demonstrate ako, all members of the school community participate in identifying significant issues and solving problems

Enjoy your week.


12 Jul

As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” – Pope John Paul II

I love this quote from John Paul. This term in my inquiry and work I have learned that leadership is difficult. It can be complex, stressful and formidable. It often conspires to reward and frustrate simultaneously. More often than not, it is two steps forward and one back. It is just the nature of the schools or institutions. It is the end of the term so it is time to reflect.

I believe in servant leadership. It can that make you feel like you are part of something significant, even life-changing. Leadership that makes you want to be ‘part of something’.

I live for those moments that everybody gets it. The “we did it together” moment. Raising others up. No agendas. No undisclosed causes. Just for the betterment of students, learners, akonga.

Yet, truly authentic leadership at its highest level exacts a price and it takes a toll. It is all-encompassing. Never off the clock. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy the holiday break. It is a chance to recharge the batteries and refresh the soul.

For this reason, leadership requires a balance. This is especially true if we are to serve others at the highest level. The stories are too numerous to count – leaders who have done phenomenal things for their organizations – yet, have left a scattered path of failed families, failed marriages, and troubled children in the wake of their organizational triumphs. Those truly great leaders have balance. They have their support team.

As I enter the holidays and make our plans and goals for the term to come we need to put home at the top of our priority list. Home is where real leadership starts. And it will be the most difficult and most important leadership job we will ever tackle. And the most rewarding. Family. My family is ground zero…the foundation of my leadership. They deserve the best. Not what we have left-over from long days of serving others. I suppose what I am saying this week leadership will flourish and grow to the betterment of the organizations and people that we serve outside of our family. These holidays I am taking time for family. I hope you do also.

Professional Reading

“To lead the people, walk behind them.” – Lao Tzu

Thought for the week

Remember to keep a good balance between your revisions and rest these school holidays. Don’t burn yourself out, but don’t waste the time.


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