It All Begins with You, the Leader

By Amy Linkel, IPLI Mentor and Principal at South Ripley Elementary School

What is a leader? If you search Google, the definition says, “The person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.” True. But, to me, a leader not only leads or commands, but a leader is courageous and brave, challenges others, is reflective, demonstrates the capacity for needed change, possesses the skills to improve others, has a vision, and ultimately leads with passion.

It all begins with you, the leader. You have more impact and influence than you know. And right now, more than ever, leadership is of most importance. COVID is forcing us to “up our leadership game.” COVID has disrupted millions of lives, including the lives of students, teachers, and family and community members in and around our schools. Has your leadership changed during COVID? Our schools have been turned upside down, but it’s your influence on others to attain a positive result as a leader. Now is the time to lead. It’s time to put on your leadership hat and see this pandemic as an opportunity to lead creatively and to create unity.

As the leader, it is imperative to have the skill to improve instructional quality and put learning at the center of your daily activities. First and foremost, building a sense of community is foundational. Leaders need to develop a professional organization of teachers who will guide and collaborate to improve their instruction. You can also enhance this opportunity by creating an atmosphere where it’s common to visit one another’s classrooms and observe instruction. Classroom visitations will help your school’s achievement and help your people become more comfortable with learning and growing. This skill is essential to improve the quality of instruction, and to do so, you must be present, be an active listener, and be reflective. Has COVID changed this for you? Are you still leading with skill?

A leader must also have vision, knowledge, and commitment to high standards for all students’ to succeed. It’s so hard to find the

“just the right fit” for all students. There will be failures along the way; however, you must get up and try again. Failure helps build strong relationships within your school when you model the continuation of trying. Are you modeling for others this attempt to experiment and risk failure? If not, start today. You will find that this vulnerability will be respected and appreciated. Make it part of your vision.

You also need the capacity for change management. What a year to experience adjusting and adapting; however, the goal is that you must “get the job done” as a leader. Never be satisfied with the status quo, rather keep looking for a better or improved way. Organizational change happens one person at a time. Be confident and secure in your work and have a strong commitment to continual improvement. A leader must be a learner. At the heart of school capacity are principals just like you, who are focused on developing teachers’ knowledge and skills and their professional community for change management.

Finally, it’s a passion! You must have the desire to lead with passion, as it is at the heart of a leader. It must come from within, and it begins with you. Find strength and passion within yourself and then share it with others.

Ignite the strengths in others that are visible. Your ability to connect and engage with people and express your passion will inspire others to succeed. When you are passionate about what you do, it is a labor of love and not a job. It will be noticed, and it can be infectious!

The bottom line, this “new normal” is hard. It’s so hard. But the leader who has the skill, vision, capacity, and passion will prevail!     From the words of John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” It all begins with you!