Sunday, February 14, 2016

Leadership: A Balancing Act


When I talk with new administrators about the challenges of being a school leader, one of the topics we discuss is the balancing act of leadership. Sometimes as leaders we “walk a tightrope,” where sometimes we misstep and sometimes we glide effortlessly. Today I want to share some of the situations where leaders must find balance, and I would love for you to share other situations (perhaps some that you yourself have faced) in the comments. 

Sometimes school leaders act as shields for teachers. They listen to complaints or concerns from parents and/or students, and they realize that they should gently nudge the student or parent to the teacher to address a situation head-on. Sometimes school leaders listen to the venting of a parent or student, and they never share the comments with the teacher. But, at a certain tipping point, the school leader will address the comments with the teacher. Part of being effective is knowing at what point a comment or complaint should be shared.

Another balancing act is in the area of professional learning. Most leaders I know are lifelong learners who embrace the opportunities to learn. Part of the responsibility of the leader is to encourage and model professional learning, but if “too much, too soon” is faced by teachers, there can be a resistance to the opportunity to learn. There has to be a balance between enough learning to enhance professional growth with not so much that the teacher feels overwhelmed. It can feel like a no-win situation at times, especially for new leaders.

Another situation that requires balance is time management. The lives of school leaders can become so engrossed with serving others that they don’t serve themselves. Also, school leaders can sometimes neglect their own families because of the needs of their students and staff. Workloads can be overwhelming, communication responsibilities can overflow, and taking time to exercise can become a ghost of the past. School leaders must balance their own needs and their families’ needs with the needs of their school community. They must delegate and trust in others to assist them and share the load. Without a support system, school leaders will tip the scales in an unhealthy direction, both physically and emotionally.

Balance does not mean all things equal. It means doing what’s necessary and doing it well. It means allowing others to share the load. It means understanding one’s beliefs and values and acting in a way that honors those values. It can be one of the highest hurdles for a new administrator to get over. Sometimes it can even be such a high hurdle that turns new administrators back to the classroom. 

Can you relate to this post? If you’re an administrator, how do you walk the tightrope? 


14 comments:

  1. Jennifer,
    Terrific share! I found myself nodding throughout. A few weeks ago I stood in front of our staff and told them I do not treat them all the same. I went on to tell them I differentiate, as I hope they also do.
    As I reflect on your "Balance" post I think of the balancing act of relationships. Some people need a continuous hand, some need occasional affirmation, some need you to give them space. Finding the balance that works takes time and trust.
    Ultimately I may not make ever correct decision, but I try to. I try to balance the information and make the best choices for our school and community.
    Wonderful Post! Thanks, Jennifer.

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    1. Ben, thanks so much for reading and commenting. I love your point about balance in relationships. As leaders, we have to "know our people" -- what they need, what they DON'T need, and what motivates them. Great insight. Thanks for sharing!
      Jennifer

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  2. Thank you! I couldn't agree more with the tightrope analogy and having to carefully consider what, when, and how to share information with teachers.

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  3. Thank you! I couldn't agree more with the tightrope analogy and having to carefully consider what, when, and how to share information with teachers.

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    1. Hi, Amy. Thanks for the reminder about balancing how we communicate with our staff. I appreciate your reading and commenting.
      Best,
      Jennifer

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  4. This has been the most interesting year of finding balance for me. Navigating the "first year" on my campus. That quote sums it the best I've seen. gr8 post Jen!

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    1. Amber, I'm glad this post resonated with you. The first year can be the hardest, but it does get better. So much we learn about ourselves and others in the first year can't be replicated... only experienced. Best wishes to you on your journey.
      Best,
      Jennifer

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  5. This is definitely a post one can appreciate Jennifer. Your highlighting of "balance" as something for the well being of our schools and teachers not to mention the maintenance of our personal selves is clearly communicated.

    I agree we need to buffer our best teachers from outside factors including intrusive parents and the burden of too many district initiatives. Allow them to truly fulfill their roles and demonstrate their passion.

    At the same time, balance and maintenance is a prerequisite for leaders. We need to look after ourselves. If we do not give ourselves permission to decompress through free time, hobbies, pampering and exercise, our "unbalanced" selves can not assist in bringing balance to our schools and faculty.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback. We must always remember to take care of ourselves so that we can navigate the rough waters of leadership. Protecting teachers can often be overlooked or minimized; I believe it's a key to school leadership.
      Thanks for commenting,
      Jennifer

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  6. Jennifer - This hit home. I find it most difficult when a teacher is working hard, harder than most of his or her colleagues, but is simply throwing energy in the wrong direction. I find the balancing act between dealing with parents and students most difficult in these situations because it is obvious to me how much the teacher cares, but everyone else is focused on the negatives. It is critical that we are honest with our teachers, but we must see these moments as opportunities for growth. Let's face it, we have all been there.

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    1. Dave, the situation you describe is definitely one that can be hard to navigate, especially for new administrators. Trust must be established prior to needing to have those kinds of conversations with teachers. Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment!
      Jennifer

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  7. Jennifer, this post gets at the heart of the types of decisions leaders make every day. It really is a balancing act. And mistakes are inevitable. But even when we feel we handled a situation poorly, we can always keep a positive attitude and do everything possible to lift others up.

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    1. David, thanks for reading and commenting. So true... we are human and mistakes will happen. More importantly, how do we respond to the mistakes? A positive attitude will conquer a lot!
      Thanks for stopping by,
      Jennifer

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  8. We should maintain our leadership attitude while following the tips present here. Most probably people are suffering from lack of leadership attitude and this we can't get this ability easily. We have to work on it and sharp our leadership attitude and promote our skills; here from this article we definitely learn some big on leadership quality. Thanks for highlighting facts about leadership.
    Leadership Coach

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