School leadership is a tough gig. Leaders often get all of the blame and none of the glory. Particularly in our impatient society, it seems leaders are expected to show positive outcomes within days! While we certainly can’t guarantee any of these ideas will work that quickly, this week we’ll share some ideas for promoting, encouraging, supporting, and providing innovative leadership.
Innovative Leadership Strategies: Start with the Gaps
An important first step is, as Stephen Covey would have said, to begin with the end in mind. For schools, the end of course is student outcomes. Too often with digital initiatives we get caught up in the “stuff” (ooooh, tablets!) rather than thinking about the learning the stuff can foster. An easy place to start is with the current gaps in student achievement. As these are places that current strategies are likely not effective, they’re ripe for new approaches and solutions. Don’t assume there’s a digital solution for every gap, however. Be open to other types of solutions as well.
Innovative Leadership Strategies: Remind Me What We’re Doing Here
Once you’ve looked at the gaps and brainstormed some ways to bridge them, it’s time to tie this into your district’s or school’s shared vision. This vision will serve to get everyone on the same page and headed in the same direction. While it may seem cliché, a vision statement can establish a culture and set of shared values for an organization, or it can just be a poster on the wall. The difference between the two is the effort that’s put into ensuring the vision is an accurate representation of the district’s values and aligning programs to the vision. Where many districts fall short is in not removing programs that aren’t consistent with the vision. This is an important step, because too many unaligned programs dilute the vision and make it less evident to stakeholders. Need some ideas to get started? The Texas Association of School Boards has some great examples to get you thinking!
Innovative Leadership Strategies: Even Leaders Need Friends
While teacher collaboration has become a pretty widespread practice, school leadership has too often remained an isolated endeavor, maybe because fostering leader collaboration requires substantial coordination. In small districts, it may be even more difficult, as there are relatively few leaders. The fewer leaders there are, however, the more important for them to collaborate with others to gain outside perspectives, share their strengths, and learn strategies for addressing their weaknesses. In large districts, these collaborations can happen face-to-face among district employees while smaller districts may need to reach out to neighboring districts or regional centers in order to gather large enough groups to promote out-of-the-box thinking. Meeting in person, at least at the beginning, will build rapport which can sustain the group if later collaborations become virtual. To help you get started, Educational Leadership magazine provides a brief summary of research on PLCs for leaders.
Innovative Leadership Strategies: Start Small, Measure it All
Rather than biting off too much at the beginning, a good way to ease into digital leadership is by planning a pilot implementation of just one piece of a larger plan. This will allow the leader to become comfortable with his or her role in guiding and facilitating the initiative, make some mistakes on a small scale that are hopefully easily remedied, and lay some groundwork for future efforts. Now admittedly, Metiri Group has a habit of evaluating things, but evaluating both the processes and products of any pilot is essential! The purpose of a pilot is to provide information to inform bigger efforts. Documenting all the steps along the way and the results of those steps is key to repeating the things that worked and avoiding the ones that didn’t in the future!