Leadership: Working On Balance

Our most effective principals are able to bring balance to the school community while maintaining balance themselves.  Sounds easy?  Not so much.

As we continue to seek ways for principals, assistant principals, and teachers to be successful in their important work, its critical that, just as we look at the “whole student,” that we also examine the whole leader. 

This is a concept with which you’re familiar:  we can’t really expect to help a student be successful in school without a thorough and accurate examination of the student as a whole.  We know that the student doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  We can work (and we should) to help students focus on what’s happening at school, but all of us know that there is more to a student than just what you see in front of you at school.

So it is with school leaders as well.  I’ve shared this idea with Ps and APs hundreds of times:  the most important thing we have going for us in schools is who you are.  Here’s why:  who you are precedes what you think.  What you think in turn drives what you do.  What you do has a great influence on what the others at your school will do.



As a leadership coach, I can help you organize your actions and focus on the what you do portion of your work as a leader.  The challenge is this:  if someone has to help you with what you do, you’ll need them to be around a lot.  It’s only when they can begin to influence who you are that you’re able to become self-sustaining.  Same logic applies to your work with your people (teachers, staff, even students and their parents).  This has always been more about your work as a leader to help others be the best version of themselves than getting others merely to follow a set of instructions or directions.

Who You Are is the key to your success as a leader, and that’s why balance is so critical.  It’s easy to get out of balance when you’re a principal or assistant principal.  The truth is, these jobs have evolved into time-consumptive, all-encompassing pursuits where the default mode is work all day with the people who are present at school and work all evening on the associated required paperwork.  It’s that format that is leaving us with the turnover we’re experiencing in school leadership nationally.  It’s a faulty design; you can’t take your most effective, capable and competent people, put them in leadership, and churn through them in five years.  It’s a bad design for schools and systems and even worse for the leaders themselves.

There is hope, however, and that hope comes in really learning about balance and seeking to make it work on a daily basis.  Everyone talks about balance, knows that it’s important, and knows what it is.  It’s having the discipline to seek balance for yourself, for your school, and in your work that will lead you to prolonged growth and success, good health, and a greater quality of life.

Examining balance and getting it right means that you look not just what you do at work, but who you are as the whole leader.  That examination means that you look at yourself and your performance in several areas, including the following:

  1. How you relate to others in your school “universe”;
  2. How you perform and accomplish the tasks necessary in your job;
  3. How you relate to those important to you in your life away from school;
  4. How you interact with the world separate from your school and your home;
  5. How you are developing habits that promote short-term and long-term health and energy;
  6. How you are growing professionally and personally; and
  7. How happy, joyful, and fulfilled you are.

That’s too much to cover in one post, so we’ll be examining each of the seven areas of the whole leader individually in a series of weekly posts beginning next Sunday.



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