Contributed by Ray and Julie Smith
As school leaders, you can’t be expected to do everything. So you have to figure out where your time, effort, and influence will count the most. Decide where your leadership practice can make the biggest difference, have the greatest impact, and then deliberately set your course in that direction.
Producing the greatest leadership impact is a sacrificial act. To pull it off, you have to steal from other areas of your professional life. That is, something has to give over here in order for you to make an impact over there. We’re talking about significant tradeoffs. Serious compromises. What is required is a strong will and a steadfast rationing of personal resources, such as your time, energy, and influence.
Don’t try out for the greatest impact leadership game if your top priority is a so-called well-balanced professional life. You’re going to have to whittle down, sharpen your focus, narrow focus as well as your leadership practices—all this so you can give more to fewer efforts—those things that matter the most!
Achieving a significant leadership impact is a greedy beast. It has a ravenous appetite. And why take food off other plates you are juggling to satisfy this creature’s craving? Because this is the beast you’re betting on to produce your most significant leadership results—the advancement of learning for all and increased student achievement.
Besides, we suspect that some of the things that have been eating up your time and energy deserve to starve. It’s all the urgent but not important stuff you have allowed to creep into your professional life that really doesn’t contribute much to your impact. It’s the insignificant routines you follow out of habit. And it’s the urgent but trivial stuff that demands your attention, yet contributes little if anything to your leadership impact. So what is the answer? Kick these scroungers away from the leadership training table.
Think significant few. Concentrate on the essential leadership practices such as routinely evaluating your impact, then deliberately activating change based on the results, relentlessly focusing on learning and the impact of teaching, see assessment as feedback to you as the instructional leader, and engage in dialogue with teachers about the relationship between what they do and the impact their instructional practices are having or not on student learning. Figure out what to ignore.
As school leaders, you actually have too many demands on your time, and this fact seriously complicates your time management strategies. It also causes stress and severely stunts your instructional leadership development. To have significant impact you must simplify. What this comes down to is deliberately managing the demands on your professional lives. Saying “No” to the many urgent but non-impactful leadership practices so you can say “Yes” to the impactful practices.
Instead of spreading yourself too thin, responding freely to the odds and ends that consume your day and week, decide what really counts. Downsize your daily activities. Don’t blunt your impact quotient by trying to do too many things at once. Only by sharply focusing yourself on leadership practices that matter most can you achieve the critical mass of energy required for significant impact.
The primary fuel source for your ability to impact learning for all and increased student achievement comes when your leadership energy is contained…compressed… and channeled. It’s simply a matter of giving yourself more fully on a much more narrow front. Leadership power accumulates quickly when there are fewer ways for it to escape.
Dr. Julie Smith is a thirty-four year veteran educator, international speaker-consultant and with co-author Dr. Raymond Smith, just published Evaluating Instructional Leadership: Recognized Practices for Success. She is a Visible LearningPlus Consultant with Corwin trained to deliver Professor John Hattie’s research in Visible Learning throughout North America and Canada and trained in Jim Popham’s Teacher Evaluation Model.
Dr. Raymond Smith’s diverse experience includes over 38 years of teaching and leadership at the building (high school principal), central office (Director of Secondary Education), and university levels. In addition to writing about leadership and leadership development, Dr. Smith is an activator of learning, leading others in workshops around Professor John Hattie’s research in Visible Learning as one of 21 Visible LearningPlus Consultants with Corwin. He also conducts workshops around Dr. James Popham’s research regarding designing and implementing defensible teacher evaluation programs.