Over 400 years of leadership advice for NEW principals…but great lessons for us all!

I’ve mentioned before the Achieving Leaders! group that our superintendent has started in Wylie ISD, meant to help leaders from all over be engaged in transparent authentic conversations that are sometimes hard to put into a district agenda. The kind of conversations that are organic to the seasons of the year that we go through, or are just flat out relevant in our leadership world. It’s these kinds of “sidebar” conversations that can sometimes help leaders grow the most. I don’t know about you, but being able to go back and forth with people who are doing the same thing I am doing can have a greater impact than someone just talking to me “about” something. Conversations, stories, relationships.

That’s what the Achieving leaders! group has been about. Feel free to join us!

I’ve been able to step in as “co-host”, if that’s an appropriate term and we’ve brought on a variety of our district admins, at all the levels, to just engage in conversations about things like “defining your green zone” or what it looks like as the leader to have ” the little while place”, a hard topic about conversations with your community in critical times…something no one wants to think about but GOOD GRIEF, how very beneficial it is to know someone has navigated through some tragic waters successfully.

One of my favorite episodes we invited in an “about to be named” elementary principal, Mr. Joey Wilborn, to receive the gifts of leadership advice, right before Christmas. I’m not going to link that episode, because we all dressed up as elves, and that should just remain buried on the page, 🙂 but I definitely wanted to make sure I shared the AMAZING advice that our district was able to share with him.

With over 400 years of cumulative experience, these bits of wisdom are not only great for new leaders but were fantastic reminders for me as well. I know there’s a lot, but I just couldn’t cut any of them out! I hope they resonate with you as well!

  • You will have so many great things you want to implement!! My advice is to not try and do everything right when you start. I have found that the more I am able to build context prior to changing something or trying something new, the better it is received. 
  • Give yourself the grace of a new day…every day! This is a tough role and while you have an idea of what you will want to do while you live in it, it will take time to become THAT person.
  • Do overreact. Step back and think about the challenge before you say something or something.
  • Smile and encourage always – even in the worst situations! There is always someone listening and watching you, your words and definitely your actions.
  • 1. Take the time to learn about your students, parents, staff, and the relationships that exist in your school community before you make big changes.

    3. Be intentional about the people you invite into your circle of trust. They should be people who truly support your leadership, and who will also be honest with you. Identify the “yes” people early on.
    4. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Take time for the things that matter most to you.
    5. Students, parents, and staff will provide you with many challenges…don’t be afraid to laugh at some of the trickiness that you will be presented with…it will keep you sane.

  • 1.) Listen first, speak last.
    2.) Don’t make assumptions-learn the “campus” way and then make decisions.
    3.) Being visible in the hallway, at events, and around parents goes a LONG way!
    4.) Get to know the leaders on your campus and listen to their vision of the school. Find out about the past to help shape the future and your vision.
    5.) Take the time to meet with all of your teachers and get to know them! Time spent one-on-one with your teachers will help them to get to know you better and what you are all about.
    6.) Sweet notes are appreciated and will help build trust.
    7.) Ask for help from the district and other principals. It doesn’t mean you are not capable, it just means you want to make the best decision for your staff and students.
    8.) Not everyone will like you or your ideas…that’s OKAY! If you are making a decision that is best for kids then it is a good idea!
    9.) Find the areas of the job that bring you JOY, and do them every day. For me, it is either writing an encouraging note to a staff member or having a conversation (or two) with kids at lunch, in the hallway, or in their classrooms!
    10.) Stay positive! Your attitude will reflect the feelings of the campus.
  • Don’t underestimate the little wins. Develop a system to monitor your big three goals as well as your day to day to do.
  • Find what makes you happiest on campus and visit there often. Your bucket needs to be filled too and knowing how to do that is very important to keeping balance with the everyday events and activities. Good luck!
  • Listen, listen, listen… whether it is your students, teachers, or a parent… most of the time people just need to be heard and they feel better once they have shared their thoughts, concerns, etc… Your willingness to hear them out often allows you to steer the conversation to where there is a positive outcome for all!!
    And above all, be a servant leader…never forget what it was like to be in the classroom – teacher eyes, always!
  • Take time for people- You are great at this and it pays off. Call for help- You don’t have all the answers right now. When times get hard or overwhelming, go find kids.

If I’d had these words, five years ago, when I started this journey…and actually LISTENED to them…I can’t even imagine how much easier that first couple of years would have been. I know Joey was super appreciative and I can’t wait to watch his journey!

Do you have any additional advice you would share?

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