Association of Washington School Principals
Volume 1 – 2020-21
To LEAD is to SERVE First
Scott Paine, MAA, CAA, CIC
Washington State Secondary Athletic Administrators Association
Evaluation Criteria: Creating a Culture
Leadership is influence, but you don’t need to have a title to be a leader. And everybody can have influence.
To be an effective leader you have to be able to balance the extremes, be trusting, and create positive influence for those you lead. And those you lead have a choice to joyfully follow you or not. We all know which side of that statement makes our job easier and more fruitful. Jocko Willink will tell you, “There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.” As school leaders we can choose to make excuses for the issues our departments are having or we can choose to make a difference but we cannot do both. The team is only as good as their leader! So, how do we become leaders that our staff, community, and students want to follow?
Forbes magazine posed a question to employers and employees, “What do employees need from a boss to become better?” You can already imagine that the answers are not the same between the two groups.
The bosses said two main topics, “Better at finances and technology.” While the employees said two different main topics, “Where are you taking me (Leadership) and how are you treating me (Emotional Intelligence)?” As a leader yourself, which do you feel you invest in more currently: the administrative side of our jobs or the daily people side? This isn’t a loaded question:both are important for the success of our departments and programs, but the root of all success comes from the people doing the work.
As a leader, there is a big difference between being respected and being popular. You may be popular if you are respected, but you will never be respected or trusted for that matter, if you are only popular. The people that you serve in your department and school district should feel four main things from your leadership; Valued, Inspired, Empowered, and Energized. What follows are the r four key points that make ordinary leaders into great, people focused leaders worth following by everyone that they serve. Here’s what you need:
A heart to care. “You will never be a leader that others love to follow if you aren’t a leader who truly loves people” (Craig Groeschel). The following four words should be used on a daily basis: “I notice” and “You matter.” Leaders know we need to appreciate the people we work with and lead. However, in our own minds, we think we appreciate people plenty enough, when in reality it’s nowhere near enough. General rule of thumb, appreciate people more than you should and then double that effort and you might finally be in the ballpark. To show my appreciation, I personally like to write thank you cards. I do thankful Thursdays every Thursday, where I will try and write 10 thank you cards for my coaching staff, secretaries, event staff, custodians, etc. I then leave them in a clever place where they will find them later, maybe paired with a small gift (i.e. a candy bar, a book, or something related to a hobby they enjoy). Giving any type of appreciation goes a long way in building solid relationships and good staff morale. Some leaders will make you think that they are really important, but the best leaders will make you know that you and the daily work you do are important. Over-appreciate your people, it’s that simple!
A passion to inspire. There is a big difference between inspiration and motivation. “Motivation is pushing people to do something they don’t want to do. Inspiration is pulling out of them what is already there” (Groeschel). Employees who describe themselves as inspired are twice as productive. Humility inspires, while pride discourages. As a leader our follow-through inspires those we lead. Be a leader who consistently does what you say you’re going to do. Your words and actions matter and those you work with will remember what you said and how you acted on certain issues regardless if a “yes” or a “no” was the answer given. You want to try to be a centered leader. The presence of a centered leader inspires. A centered leader is secure, stable, confident, guided by values, driven by purpose, and obsessed with mission. Your passion transforms a job into a calling. Craig Groeschel says, “When passion meets inspiration, an obsession is born.” Start an inspiration fire within your department and watch the passion and productivity spread fast!
A willingness to empower. The best leaders unleash higher performance through empowerment, not command and control. You can have total control or you can have growth. But you cannot have both. Delegate authority, not tasks. We need to give people ownership. Let your people soar. Give them freedom and allow them to fail. During my time working on the administrative team at Sunnyside High School, I learned about an empowerment/delegation metaphor utilizing a “river” and “river banks.” How I go about giving my staff empowerment to run their programs is by giving them “the banks of the river.” The “banks” would be certain rules or guidelines we must follow. Then they have the power to “flow” their river between the “banks” however they choose, thus giving empowerment to them in their area of work/expertise. It is no secret that we learn the most from our failures. As leaders we need to be delegating more decisions. Use phrases like “I trust you,” “You decide on this one,” and “I trust your judgement.” The best way to find out if you trust someone is to just trust them. If you don’t trust your team, you’re either too controlling or you have the wrong people. Either way the problem is yours to solve.
Courage to lead your department the right way. As leaders we need the courage to be real, transparent, vulnerable, humble, integrous, and honest. We need to step into the role we are given and lead with passion and integrity. As leaders, we feel pressure to be perfect, strong, and right. People aren’t looking for that. “People would rather follow someone who is real than someone who is right all the time” (Groeschel). We are going to do the best we can. And when we get it wrong, we’re going to say, “I'm sorry. I was wrong about that.” I know I am preaching to the choir, but being a leader isn’t easy. We face multiple decisions and problems on a daily basis and in our profession even a morning basis. But the means by which we choose to make decisions and tackle problems should always be in light of what is best for our community, students, and core values of our departments. Remember as leaders, the way we act and the standards we hold ourselves to will be mirrored by those we serve.
In our profession — and really in any leadership position — the stakes are always very high. I challenge all of you as educational leaders to stand up and be an athletic director worth following. One who serves those around you first. Who faces challenges and decisions with absolute integrity and moral fortitude. Who points the ship in the direction that is best fit for their local community and most importantly their student population.
I want to leave you with these final two thoughts. Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden said, “Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation. Character is what you really are; reputation is merely what you are perceived to be.” Coach Wooden never focused on winning. He knew that winning was the by product of great leadership, teamwork, focus, commitment and execution of the fundamentals. As a leader focus on your people and process (the basis fundamentals), not the outcome.
Finally, just because you're driving the bus doesn’t mean you have the right to run people over. Abraham Lincoln said, “Most anyone can stand adversity, but to test a man's character, give him power.” The more power you are granted the more it is your responsibility to serve, develop and empower those you work with and serve on a daily and seasonal basis. When you help them grow they'll help you grow. Be an athletic director who is authentic and real!
Always remember, “When the time to perform has arrived, the time to prepare has passed.”
- Anonymous
Gordon, J. (2017). The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World (1st ed.). Wiley.
Groeschel, Craig. “Becoming a Leader People Love to Follow.” Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast, Life.Church.
Willink, J., & Babin, L. (2017). Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win (New Edition) (1st ed.). St. Martin’s Press.
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Washington Principal | Volume 1 – 2020-21