In my current position, I spend a lot of my time learning about new initiatives, frameworks, and methods so that I can lead, serve or help connect other school personnel to resources that enable them to do the same.  

Recently, while “unpacking” some of these, I was asked what my “recipe” for school leadership was. Indeed, developing an understanding, and perhaps an expertise, in any of dozens of best practices is important for any school leader.  But great schools (and great organizations, for that matter) require leaders to establish priorities that are more broad. Here was my response:

#1 – FOCUS on Students

Students are why schools exist.  As a result, the number one priority for any school leader should be to help students develop the skills so that they can live happy, healthy and creative lives.  Therefore, practices, policies and procedures should always align with student academic and social-emotional needs. 

#2 – CULTIVATE Impassioned Employees

Most organizations rely on extrinsic motivation to accomplish their goals and schools are no different.  Therefore, finding ways to nurture staff members’ passion, purpose and intrinsic motivation is critical.  

Leaders should look for opportunities to let staff share ways they can support the district’s mission and priorities, make it OK to openly discuss purpose and happiness, or to connect their creative side projects with their work.  If we want students to be purposeful learners, they need to see the adults in school lead by example. I cannot think of a better way to harness a district’s potential to meet all students’ needs than to focus on nurturing an impassioned, intrinsically-motivated staff.

#3 – NURTURE Meaningful Relationships

Students who have positive and supportive relationships with their teachers are more engaged, open to new experiences, take risks, behave better and achieve more than those who do not.   It is important to me that every student has at least one, and hopefully dozens, of adults in school who they trust and know cares for them.

Why just three?

According to “the rule of three,” things in threes are inherently more appealing than other groupings. More importantly, part of leading is creating a compelling vision, which serves as a guidepost.  A vision with too many components would be difficult to follow, let alone effectively lead.

How did I come up with these, you might ask?

Please know that these are my priorities.  They are the priorities that I was able to tease out of a much longer list of important leader behaviors, yet I believe to be most meaningful.

What are your priorities?

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