Lead Like a PIRATE – Passion AND Patience

If you are an educational leader, I hope you lead with PASSION!  Highly effective leaders are passionate.  They know who they are, they know what they love, they know what they stand for, and they bring this with them to work in one way or another everyday.  The passion is contagious, and highly effective leaders have a knack for helping those around them ignite their own passions and capitalize on them.  I love walking into schools where passion is evident.  There is a hard to describe energy that radiates within the walls and around the campus, and it takes a passionate leader to create this.

One of the early mistakes I made as a leader was believing that what I was passionate about would quickly be what everyone else was passionate about.  I actually thought that when I got excited about a new and better way of doing something and shared it with my staff that they all would make the change the next day and be excited about it… after all, my way was better, and who didn’t want to be better? Any of you who have been in leadership roles for longer than about two months can imagine how well that went over.  What I discovered over time, is that PASSIONATE leaders also need PATIENCE if we want to ignite a fire in our schools and districts that lasts.  Once we light a spark, we need to give it time to catch… we need to nurture it, feed it, stoke it, give it our constant attention and let it develop into a slow and steady burn that ultimately engulfs our school or district community.    A few things I’ve learned about how to light a fire and keep it burning…

  • Help your team see the purpose and the value in the change or new way of thinking.
  • Honor the good things they already do in their classrooms and don’t let the fire scorch the things that currently make a difference.
  • Know and understand each member of your team as a learner, be attentive to the type of support they will need, and their level of comfort with taking risks.
  • Help them find time to plan, collaborate, and connect with their colleagues to share successes and failures.
  • Get involved in the conversations and the work.  Don’t just announce change from the podium, roll up your sleeves and work alongside your team.
  • Give each person some wiggle room to go at their own pace.
  • Visit classrooms often so you will notice when someone has taken a small step forward, celebrate that step and never dismiss it as too small or not enough.
  • Listen authentically, honor their concerns and help get obstacles out of their way.
  • Provide them with useful and purposeful resources… not all at once, but over time as the need arises and the demand for them grows.  Don’t overwhelm people with too much too fast.
  • Convey UNdeniable and UNshakeable confidence in the ability of your team to do GREAT WORK and to BE AMAZING!
  • Be clear and relentless in your message… no one should ever wonder what it is that you are passionate about and committed to.

One of the most rewarding experiences you can have as a leader is to watch your PASSION fuel a new fire in your school or your district.  But it is important to remember that while your PASSION may be what lights the spark going, it will be your PATIENCE in fanning the flames that will ensure that it continues to burn.

Go forth and set the world on fire