3 Actionable Ways to be a Courageous School Leader Today
“A deep and abiding sense of courage is a quality that separates good leaders from great ones. Research shows that professionals who demonstrate courage in the workplace not only perform better, but influence their peers to act with bravery and drive organizational success” (Gavin, 2020).
What does it mean to be a courageous leader? If you ask 20 different people, you may get 20 different answers. I believe there are 3 overarching topics or themes that would continue to surface over and over no matter who you asked: lead by example and with passion, take risks, and delegate to your staff. Let’s dive in a little deeper.
Tip #1: Lead by Example and With Passion!
Being a courageous leader implores you to lead by example. Why would anyone on your team follow your lead if you, as their leader, aren’t leading by example? Recently, I was watching “The Last Dance,” the Michael Jordan documentary and he spoke about his leadership style as the leader of the team. One thing that he stated that stuck with me was that he would never ask anyone on his team to do anything that he wouldn’t be willing to do. I think we can all agree that he was also very passionate about not only the game of basketball, but about his growth and leadership as a member of the team. He was respected by his coaches and team as a result of this.
“Passionate leaders are fully engaged and committed to achieving their goals while helping others achieve theirs” (Ray, 2019). Isn’t that what we want as leaders? To be fully engaged and committed and help others to do the same along the way? As educators, we thrive when we are around fellow passionate educators and leaders. It pushes us to live in our purpose and walk in our greatness. When you lead by example and with passion, you’ll see that your staff begins to do the same!
Leadership Expert, Michelle Ray, shares 12 traits that separate passionate leaders from regular leaders and they are too good not to share with you!
- Passionate leaders rise above naysayers.
- Passionate leaders have a profound understanding of people.
- Passionate leaders are outstanding communicators.
- Passionate leaders have clarity of vision.
- Passionate leaders see opportunity in adversity.
- Passionate leaders are fueled by positive energy.
- Passionate leaders have compassion.
- Passionate leaders are resourceful.
- Passionate leaders anticipate rather than react.
- Passionate leaders take action.
- Passionate leaders are lifelong learners.
- Passionate leaders believe in themselves.
Imagine that these 12 traits served as a passionate leader evaluation. Where would you grade yourself on leading with passion? Take a few minutes to reflect.
Tip #2: Take Risks!
If you, as the leader of your school, are open to taking risks and trying new things, your staff members will feel more comfortable to do the same. The leader of that building has to be the one to foster that risk taking spirit! Can you imagine standing in front of your staff and declaring a dream so big that they all stare back at you with wide eyes thinking, “Is he/she crazy?” What if that dream included having your staff foster a relationship with every single student in your school? Or putting together a plan that would create a community around your school so strong that your students actually wanted to come to school? How about a dream that involved each member of your staff feeling so confident, that they too, took risks, and in doing so felt 100% supported by you and their colleagues enabling them to live and work at their highest potential?
Your attitude and the environment of risk taking that you create is what will make the difference for your staff to feel free to do the same.
As the leader of your building, you are in a unique situation to pour into your staff. To see bigger dreams for them than they can see for themselves. I think back to August of 2004 when I interviewed for my first teaching position. My hiring principal sat across her desk from me during that interview and said, “I see something in you. You’re going to make me proud. I’m going to take a chance on you and you’re going to be my star baby.” I remember it just like it was yesterday. Had she not taken a risk on me, a non-certified person with a passion to become an educator, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am forever grateful to her for seeing more in me than I could ever have dreamed possible for myself!
Tip #3: Delegate to Your Staff!
Courageous leaders delegate to their staff. By doing so, you show that you trust your staff to execute your vision and sometimes even take chances and risks by being innovative with the tasks that you’ve delegated to them. Delegating to your staff will develop and build leaders. These leaders become more invested in the mission and vision of your school and will begin to lead with passion and take risks, both within their classrooms and with their peers. This also encourages team building and cooperation. This ultimately helps to build your school’s culture.
Of course, when you delegate to your staff there are some things that you should think about. Here are a few to consider:
- Delegate to the right people. Lean on the strengths of your staff.
- Make your expectations of the tasks that you are delegating clear. Give them the opportunity and comfort to ask any and all clarifying questions that they need to give you the result that you’re looking for.
- Make sure that you have provided those that you are delegating to, everything that they need to be successful at the task.
Being a courageous leader will require you to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. The things that you try are not always going to turn out right the first time. Your staff may even question why you are doing the things that you’re doing. By leading with passion, taking risks, and delegating to your staff, you are creating a staff full of leaders that will push you to do more and dream bigger!