You Are Either in Growth or Decline: Which?

Out of all of the things that require your attention as a school leader, the one that usually gets what’s leftover is ‘you.’  That’s something, unfortunately that you really can’t afford to ignore.  You are either in growth or decline.  If you lack commitment and intentionality in your personal and professional growth, you will get stuck where you are as a leader, or worse, regress.

In our weekly journey into the concept of balance and the school leader, we find ourselves today examining the need to balance the work that you do in leading your school with the work you should do to grow individually, both professionally and personally.

Here are a few questions that you can reflect on to examine the concept:

  1. Do you believe that professional growth is important for you to be an effective leader?   It’s unlikely that you will say ‘no’ to this one, but it’s important to begin with it.  Do you really believe that you need to grow or do you think you’ve gotten far enough along to “do your job” well?  Here’s an observation:  when I host leadership sessions, attendees most often fall into one of three groupings:  a)  new leaders; b) leaders who are struggling; and c) the most effective leaders (who make professional growth a priority).  I don’t always get (at least in those settings) the sedentary principals.  They are able to stay busy enough at school to stay away from advanced learning.  The profile of these individuals is that they’ll only go to PL that’s mandated and when there they’ll only engage minimally.  Those are the people who would answer ‘no’ to this question if answering honestly.  
  2. In what areas do you need professional growth?  Personal growth?   The unexamined life is not worth living.  Of course, when Socrates allegedly said this, they sentenced him to death… that notwithstanding, the leader stops being the leader when the leader stops growing.  One really can’t get to growth without reflection.  What does your data (all of your data, not just some of it) tell you about what your school needs?  How does that connect with you and your work?  The most effective leaders are able to listen, learn, design, and grow.  Be honest.  Get honest feedback.  Design your growth plan (or get help from a coach/mentor in designing your growth plan).   Not just professionally, though.  You’re not only what you do; you’re who you are as well.  In what areas do you need to grow as an individual?  Would a focus on those areas help you in your work as a leader as well?
  3. growth chartWhat day will be your “high water mark?”    Even though we don’t think about like this, each of us have a high water mark in our work as the school leader.  If you could chart your effectiveness as a school leader over time, what would the graph look like?  You would expect that your first day as principal would be on the low end, but would it also be true that your last day would be near the top?  If that isn’t true, when would your best day be?  This is a thought to consider: what’s your current trajectory?  Are you on the rise or on the decline?  Have you peaked already?  If so, you still have a chance to change that.  In the totality of your career, it can be a plateau from which you rise up, as long as you dedicate yourself to continued growth.  If you can consider this question honestly and objectively, it can change you as a leader for the remainder of your career.  It may make you reconsider your answers to the first two questions.

Your job.  Your growth.  It’s not either or… it’s both.  If you can get them balanced, you’ll be stronger in both.


This is an installment of our Sunday series about balance.  Getting balance right as the school leader is one of your most critical challenges.  Please take a look at the whole series under the category of “Balance” here at Principal Matters!

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.

It’s important that you learn to balance within each of these areas, as well as balance all seven together.

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