Just 10 days ago, I began a new journey. August 1st, 2014 marked the first official day as the new Principal of the Eakin School, an elementary school serving students in grades K-4 in the Metro-Nashville Public Schools district. The first 10 days has been full of the highest highs... kind, warm, and welcoming teachers and parents going out of their way to make me feel well received. It has also been full of little sleep at night paired with many hours spent with my new school community as the unique timing required me to "hit the ground running" as we have also started school this past week.
Here are three "take-aways" from my first 10 days. The three tips are pointers to anyone out there who have found themselves also in a new setting. I encourage you to put others first. Hopefully, these three notions speak to you.
1. Get Out of the Way: I believe good leaders of organizations know how to remove themselves and allow others shine. I believe effective leaders know when something is working okay, then there is no need to mess with it. I have allowed myself to sit back and observe a wonderful community of parents and teachers keep the momentum going that was already in place well before I arrived: Everything from procedures, to norms, to processes, to systems. As the old adage goes... "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." You see, whenever there is a change in leadership of a quality organization, that leader inherits quality individuals. There is no doubt quality individuals who make up the fantastic Eakin community. I have had to allow those quality individuals to reveal themselves and shine. It has been a privilege.
2. Listen and Care: The first initiative I want to accomplish is to build trust. Anytime, we deal with organizations like schools which are built on the premise of relationships; it is vital to build trust. I have already met with multiple stakeholders of teachers, parents, students, faith-based representatives, political figures, and more. No matter how many tasks on my "to-do" list: emails to read and respond to, items to organize, boxes to unpack, and more; it is ALWAYS more important to put those tasks aside and listen to the important individuals who make up the organization.
2. Be Patient: I am a leader. I have been a leader as far back as I can remember. I have goals. I have a vision. Again, I have been this way for a long time. I guess I can blame my parents because it is simply the way I am wired... being a visionary is in my DNA. However, I am also continuously learning that when leading others, it is vitally important to allow any vision that is worth it to marinate. It is important to be strategic. It is important to take the approach of "turning the ship slowly." Especially, when leading schools which have hundreds if not thousands of human beings; it is important to turn the ship slowly. Schools are like HUGE ships. They are not like little jet skis which can be turned on a dime and cut back and forth very quickly. There is no doubt I have a vision. BUT, what is more important is conveying the vision the correct way: with patience, humility, grace, and great thought while also allowing others to have a seat at the table.
What about you? What do you think? What advice would you give to someone starting a new chapter in leadership?