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?