Ralph Waldo Emerson suggests a hero is no braver than any ordinary man or woman, it’s just that they are brave for “five minutes longer. Who is your hero? Maybe it’s your parent, a teacher, spouse, child, or someone you know who overcame insurmountable odds. The best heroes are not the ones in comic books, or movies leaping over tall buildings or flying into outer space. The best heroes are people who we see, know, and trust. The real people who do extraordinary things or perhaps they do ordinary things in ways that consistently honor and serve others over time. Teachers who regularly give all they have for their students are heroes. Most school leaders happily acknowledge and applaud teachers as heroes but these same leaders are often reluctant to call their own work heroic. I believe teachers, staff members, school leaders, and students can all be real heroes. Our school hallways are filled with current and potential heroes!
Heroes are built, not born. Being a hero takes a conscious and intentional focus on committing to something higher than yourself. I challenge you to work every day to be a focused, tireless, and vocal advocate for kids. Schools reflect their leaders. If you are committed to hero–building leadership, you will have an extraordinary school where the lives of students and everyone in the school will be strengthened. Our kids, and our schools, are hungering for leaders who are committed to hero–building leadership.
5 Tips for School Leaders
1. Team Up
The best heroes don’t work alone – they are stronger together than they are as individuals. The same is true for school leaders. Work to identify a collaborative team you can surround yourself with and work alongside. The culture of Hero-Building Leadership is collaborative at its core. Be intentional in building a team, schedule collaborative leadership time, and commit to doing this work together. To make a real heroic difference, consider including student leaders on this team!
2. Value Everyone
Hero-Building leadership nurtures a school culture which values everyone, is committed to the success of all members of the school community, and strives to challenge everyone to fulfill their dreams and aspirations. This type of culture needs intentional leadership and focus to maintain a steady level of growth and nurturing. Empower students to do amazing things: provide them the resources, support them in the journey, and celebrate them along the way. Everyone in your school can be a hero, they just may need your belief in them and inspiration to begin their hero journey.
3. Be a Storyteller
We believe strongly in the power of story. Use the stories of your older students and how they learned from their experience, how they overcame the resistors, how they grew as leaders, and what they are doing now. These stories can motivate and empower even the most reluctant heroes. Through video, podcasting, and journaling, take the time to archive these stories for use with future groups of students. Your current students will benefit so much from the examples of their predecessors. Seeing how alumni are making positive impacts in the district and community will show your current students what they are capable of. Try using one of the best video clips during orientation day for new students, as a mid-year motivator shown to the entire school, or as a social media campaign on overcoming adversity.
4. Be a Fierce Advocate
Our kids need fierce advocates: leaders who are brave enough to shatter the status quo, challenge unhealthy practices, and who lobby in support of ALL students. I emphasize all because we need to stand and support every student who comes through our doors. This may require us to confront staff members who are making decisions based on what’s best for the adults in the building rather than the kids. Consider this quote from the movie Aquaman, “A king fights for his nation. A hero fights for everyone!”
5. Think Big
It’s time leaders stretch ourselves and our students, faculty, staff, and entire school to think big and become global game changers who are ready to solve real world problems. Kids should not think they need to graduate before they can make a difference in the world. In our book, You Don’t Need Superpowers To Be A Kid’s Hero: Leading a Hero-Building School Culture we share multiple real life examples of kids who are making a difference in their world right now, they are the problem solvers and game changers causing a ruckus for good. It’s time we think big and find ways to empower students to solve real life problems in their schools, communities, region, and world instead memorizing facts for a test.
Leaders who have the courage to live these five principles will transform their school culture and empower kids to do amazing things to create a better world.
You can learn more about leading a hero-building school culture by reading Bill Ziegler and Dave Ramage’s new book You Don’t Need Superpowers to Be a Kid’s Hero.