Leadership is the exercise of influence on organizational members and diverse stakeholders toward the identification and achievement of the organization’s vision and goals. (OLF, 2013).
…” the exercise of influence” is a phrase that sticks with me as a leader as we attempt to make continuous enhancements to the learning-centered agenda that must serve as the foundational culture to our Board Learning Plan. I think about:
What does it mean to “exercise influence”?
How do we engage in this work so that change is fast?
Do all formal and informal leaders see themselves as individuals whose role is defined by the exercise of influence?
Do all leaders understand and champion our vision?
I share this thinking as it was the result of a struggle that I had this week – one which every leader knows and I believe struggles with – the tension between the learning agenda and the management agenda. As of Wednesday, I was feeling that nothing was exciting me in terms of my learning (yet) this week as I had struggled to actually be able to focus; there were so many “distractors” that pulled my attention from the learning environment (which happened to be a Primary Math PLC). While I know that this is reality for any leader, I maintain the stance that I need to be relentless about the learning focus and that I need to model this relentlessness in everything that I do – you have all heard me say “practice what you preach”. I truly believe that when we approach everything that we do from a learning stance, good things happen for everyone. It really means that we say “every decision that we make is in the best interest of students and student achievement”. This is our organization’s vision and goal; one which is expressed by both the SGDSB Strategic Plan and consequently, operationalized by our Board Learning Plan for Student Achievement and Well-Being.
When I expressed my lack of excitement (and thus the notion that I had little to reflect on and share in my writing) to a valued colleague, she offered a suggestion. Why don’t you write about the leader’s struggle to maintain a learning stance while juggling other management items?
As I began to think about this tension, what I realized is that I had actually not left the learning stance through the week even when I approached management pieces…that in essence, I made those management decisions through the lens of influencing the learning agenda. When I reviewed the Ontario Leadership Framework in preparation for our Principal Learning Meeting, I realized that I was in fact influencing through (most of) my actions – actions which align with the Five Domains of the OLF. For example, at a Principal Performance Appraisal meeting the discussion was framed around the learning of the principal, his influence on the learning of the staff in his school, and their impact on the learning of the students in their care. When working with a principal to plan a PD Session, our focus was all about supporting the Learning Mindset of the participants. In preparation for our Leads’ Meeting, my focus was on analyzing the evidence that I have collected during school visits to determine learning themes. And finally, at the Senior Administration meeting, conversations about staffing were focused on the learners. I am realizing that it is my stance, not the structures that I may or may not be fully present in, that determines my leadership.
I have re-framed my theory of action question to be What impact is my relentless focus on learning having on the leadership stance of those with whom I work? Although I am often impatient to see change, I know that the only way to move forward is to be consistent with our message, to be clear about our focus, and to constantly see myself as an “influencer” of that change. By influencing, we may not see impact right away, however it implies the respect for the learner that needs to be in place. We cannot simply “tell” people to change, we need to set the conditions in which they begin to want/see the urgency to change on their own accord. If “influence” is defined (by Google) as “the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something”, then I need to truly analyze my capacity to lead us to an environment that is completely “learning focused”. Being fully engaged in learning at PLCs is important, however I am coming to realize that leading this agenda requires so much more. It is the “in-between” work that matters as well.
Until next week...At the end of each day, take a few minutes and ask yourself how you influenced the vision of our district. Then decide what you next action will be to “turn up the heat”! Let’s continue the moment on #nmcblog!
(obtained from Growing Leaders, Habitudes for Leadership, http://growingleaders.com/habitudes/)