Don’t Be Afraid to Give Up the Good to Go for the Great!

As a teacher in my early twenties, I wanted to change the world. I was going to instill my passion and skills into each student that entrusted their future to me. I developed lesson plans, set up demonstrations, assigned homework, and gave tests. I did everything I was taught to do. I replicated the things my teachers did to instruct me. So, I was disappointed that my students weren’t getting it.

My students happened to be inmates in a medium-security prison, so I rationalized my shortcomings to the idea that my students didn’t want to or were incapable of learning. As I look back, I am embarrassed that I considered such a ridiculous notion.

Fortunately, a mentor helped me to understand that reaching my students wasn’t going to happen until I connected with them. Many years later, the idea became crystal clear when I heard leadership guru John Maxwell say, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It wasn’t until I began to communicate with my students as people that they started learning, and ultimately embraced me as their teacher.

The best teachers understand that you have to touch the heart before you can ask for the hand. Unfortunately, touching the heart isn’t taught in a college class or outlined in a textbook. It’s a leadership skill that is needed to become a great teacher and, ultimately, a great leader of a school or any organization for that matter.

Developing leaders is a gap that is missing in many of our school systems. Good teachers get promoted, and they lead as the good teacher elevated before them. Eventually, a good teacher makes it to the ranks of the Superintendent and leads by the example set before them. As a result, many schools are experiencing a “leadership gap.”

The process isn’t necessarily bad, but it isn’t great either. John D. Rockefeller said it best when he said, “don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.”

There are numerous excellent school leaders. Still, I contend that many school leaders have the right attitude and are willing to work hard, but lack the training necessary to bring about significant results. Hard work and attitude are like the ball and bat in the game of baseball. They are required to play the game but aren’t enough to be great at it.

There is plenty of discussion regarding teacher professional development and rightfully so, but where is the discussion around developing the CEO of a school? Successful businesses understand the importance of developing the CEO and holds them accountable to lead and to set the example. Companies invest in their leaders and often hire coaches to help move them from good to great.

Creating a culture capable of world-class results doesn’t happen by accident. And certainly can’t happen with hard work alone. Developing school leaders will affect the rest of the school. A great leader will improve teacher retention and satisfaction, which will lead to improved student and school performance.

Schools are big businesses and need leaders capable of running the day-to-day operations, but it doesn’t stop there. A great leader dares to set a bold vision and is capable of fostering a culture committed to the success of that vision. Developing the CEO of a school may be one of the most overlooked yet critical tasks we have as a society. After all, we entrust our children and future, to the care of the organization the person leads. Want to improve education? Develop those who lead it.

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