By now, you probably know a lot about school leadership. You’ve taken courses, received training and attended conferences on effective school leadership.
If you’re like most people, much of what you studied remains in your notes and on your list of things to do. Most you simply don’t remember.
That’s okay. The data is overwhelming. We’ve become data junkies living in data junkyards. In education, everything is about data these days – data-driven decisions, data-driven instruction, data-driven leadership. Next thing you know, we’ll have data-driven play. The data will always be there. More will arrive. You can find it anytime and try out new skills and techniques.
Don’t get me wrong. Data has its rightful place. We can and must learn from it. But expertise and skills learned from data analysis do not an exceptional leader make.
Your relationships make you an exceptional leader, or not. Relationships are the key. And relationships are an art form in the truest sense of the word.
When you walk into your school, lead a faculty meeting, talk with parents and chat with students, your relationships are far more important than your leadership skills and expertise. Your ability to connect with people, and to maintain strong relationships built on trust and respect define your leadership. Skills and expertise are the icing on the cake.
The key to healthy relationships is self-differentiation. Emotionally, exceptional leaders are not dependent on anything other than themselves. They are self-sufficient and live without undue anxiety or over-dependence on others. Their sense of worth comes from within and is independent of relationships, circumstances and events.
Exceptional leaders understand that the emotional processes going on within their schools are extraordinarily powerful – much more powerful than ideas, goals or any other leadership tool. The emotional life of an organization is like the wind and waves. The sailor who tries to overcome them will likely fail, whereas positioning oneself to let the natural force assist will take the ship in the right direction.
The art of exceptional leadership is the capacity to be a steady, non-anxious and challenging presence, and to be connected to people but not enmeshed in the emotional processes. In short, the exceptional leader is first and foremost emotionally intelligent. Leadership through presence and self-differentiation is not easy. Be prepared to lose friends and experience the pain of isolation and personal attacks. It comes with the territory.
So do the rewards. And they are endless. Exceptional school leadership creates exceptional schools. Is anything more beautiful?