Remote learning has been around for some time and nearly everyone has some experience with it. Remote leadership is a bit of a different story. While full-time, all-the-time, digital learning leaders have experience in this, for most everyone else, this is new ground (and especially at such a large scale).
What does it take to be effective in remote leadership? Here are seven “Cs” that describe the remote school leader:
Cool, Calm, …. these are stressful times, and, as always, the leader sets the tone for the others. You are bound to get frustrated. (We DID shift our method of delivery across thousands of schools in a matter of hours, days as the most!) There are some things that aren’t going to fit neatly into our new norms. But as always, the leader who stays calm under stress helps reduce it for others. To finish off that phrase, you want to be cool, calm, and…
Connected. As different as things are for everyone, you have a unique opportunity to connect with your people. You have more opportunity to schedule your time than you usually do. In doing so, you may want to consider keeping an ongoing list of who you’re in contact with, to make sure that you don’t inadvertently leave anyone out. You can connect with your folks in one of the many, many platforms that we all are going to get very proficient on! Stay connected.
Confident. The person who thinks they can and the one who thinks they can’t are both right. (Revised from a Henry Ford quote) This is a time for leadership, and leadership requires confidence. So, you’ve never done what we’re doing now. That puts you even with everyone else. You have done things in your previous experience that should give you the courage to know that you’ll take on these new challenges and succeed. Believe in yourself, especially as things get more challenging. I can’t help but think about my mother and father who grew up and lived during the Great Depression and World War II. As challenging as what we’re working through now may be, we can stand tall on the work of those who have come before us, especially when it comes to summoning up the courage and confidence needed to move forward each day.
Creative. What a great time to be a creative leader, and what an opportunity we have to do things we normally haven’t been able to do! You can meet with your people in small groups, 1:1, large groups. You can create digital games and challenges. You can use your creativity to keep the energy and excitement going. And, if you’re one of those people who often say “I’m not creative,” guess what? You can see what others are doing and creatively copy what they’re doing! Keep it interesting for your folks. Have some games and giveaways. Create the space for joyful work amongst your people.
Consistent. Jerry Bavero, principal of Union County Elementary School has a “pep rally” for his entire school every single day of the year to start the day. He’s working to provide consistency and normalcy for his students and teachers by continuing to do it… digitally each day. Whatever you usually do at school… shout outs for birthdays, the pledge, things of that sort… consider doing it virtually to help everyone in your school fam have a little bit of anchor to connect to.
Caring. Bibb County Schools has started a hashtag, #BibbAthleticsShoutOut to share profiles about their Senior Athletes, particularly those who are currently missing their spring sports season. This is a huge loss for those kids and their parents, and this small, but caring touch helps them know their work hasn’t gone unnoticed. As the leader, we naturally look around and notice… we notice who needs a little extra and we work to get it for them. Now’s a great time to be an observant noticer, and to show that you care. It’s really the little things that make the most difference in challenging times. This is what you’re great at on a regular day, and now you’re called to do it in another way, at another level.
Chances are, you’re thinking by now, “those seven Cs aren’t any different just because we’re leading remotely.” You’re right. You’ll need to adjust your approach and change your platforms, but yes, these are the same things that you do 247/366 already. Which means, you should stand tall and know that you’re ready for this work. In times like these, you don’t have to help anyone “find their why?” Now is your time to lead them, to support them, to nurture them and to do what’s needed, because that’s what you always do.
Thank you for your service.