Does A + B = C?
Hughes, Collarelli Beatty, and Dinwoodie (2014) state “aspirational dimensions are an important part of strategy because they create a lens through which internal and external conditions are understood and evaluated” (p. 25). In this chapter, I endeavor to explore who I am, whom I want to become, and the strategical steps I need to execute to get there.
When faced with any given circumstance, I vacillate between two extreme responses: trepidation or confidence. The limiting factor in either situation is how much experience I have with a given circumstance. A naturally reflective person, I ponder previously experienced situations to implement corrective measures, creating a guide for me to follow. In unfamiliar circumstances, however, apprehension reigns. My initial assessment of a circumstance begins with questions, such as “How serious is this?” “Do I have time to handle it?” “What will the impact be if I can’t handle this?” and “Do I have the resources? If not, who should I call?” I do not physically show my fear to others, as I learned this heightens their stress. While Goleman, Boyatzis, & McKee, 2009, might describe me as being self-aware, acting confident in the face of trepidation limits my ability to exercise transparency in the dimension of emotional intelligence (p. 4).
What I need when facing a new circumstance is time. I require a quiet period to process information, sort out my reaction, and pray about a plan of action. Giving myself time for a delayed response also allows me to investigate symptoms of a possible deeper problem. With more information and a clear-headed analysis, I create a step-by-step strategy. James 1:19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
A stress response is also triggered by knowing what to do but not having enough time or resources to get the job done. In my personal life, I have confidantes who know me well and assist me to pinpoint my reactions. Some of my more brutally honest relationships forge the choicest fruit. Goleman et al. (2009) encourage leaders to “break through the information quarantine around you. Actively seek out negative feedback” (p. 8). Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” I treasure these relationships
In my professional life, I connect with my principal and other senior administrators to voice my thoughts, invite counsel, and facilitate the identification of my blind spots. I also follow educational leaders on Twitter for new resources and seek out information in my Master of Educational Leadership Program textbooks. Hughes et al. (2014) assert “[the strategy process] is, in fact, a learning process, and leaders must enter into it with a learning orientation, including curiosity, inquiry, humility, and collaboration with others” (p. 21). Seeking other points of views helps to clarify the problem, bringing into focus the strategy required to solve it.
With all the support around and within me, I question why I still resort to trepidation as my first response to circumstances? “Success in the knowledge economy comes to those who know themselves, their strengths, their values, and how they best perform” (Amit and Zott, 2001, as cited in Ungerer et al., 2016, p. 34). Goleman et al., 2009, maintain “Taking stock of your real self starts with an inventory of your talents and passions… this can be painful if the slow, invisible creep of compromise and complacency has caused your ideal self to slip away” (p. 8). If I know I need time to get from fear to confidence, why do I not create parameters to allow me this? And if the “process of strategy formation requires insight, creativity and synthesis” (Ungerer et al., 2016, p. 19), how am I limiting myself by not creating boundaries to allow for this time?
What Leads the Way?
Ungerer et al. (2016) state “Our leadership choices start with a personal choice about the personal leadership value and intent we embrace” (p. 17). It behooves leaders, then, to intentionally delve into their motivations for leading. My mission is to follow where the Lord guides with the tools He provides. My vision is to do life with Jesus. My guiding values are accountability, truth, forgiveness, trust, and faith. The more I walk in leadership, the clearer my mission, vision, and values become. My professional mission is to carry out my job responsibilities at my school prayerfully. My vision is to work as unto the Lord where ever I am called, and my guiding values are the same as my personal values: accountability, truth, forgiveness, trust, and faith. Ulrich and Smallwood note “Leaders sustain change when the change is consistent with their personal values. Value consistency helps leaders to think and act with continuity so that their stance and actions are clear both to themselves and observers” (2013, p. 91). Together, my collective mission, vision, and values create an authenticity within me because I am motivated by the same source, no matter what the situation is.
Where Passion and Pursuit Intersect!
“Strategic drivers are those relatively few determinants of sustainable competitive advantage for a particular organization” (Hughes et al., 2014, p. 26). Strategic leaders must also assess their personal drivers as well, so they do not fall into a “kitchen sink” strategy (Hughes et al., 2014, p. 26). Drivers fostering a competitive advantage in me are perseverance and faith.
Being strategic in my life requires the sacrifice of free time and balance. Pursuing higher education demands a focus and a commitment to do the work required of the program. The cost for me is lost moments with my family and friends. I prioritize my time with scheduled academic and professional tasks while working full-time and studying at night. Sometimes I resent the demand, and I feel frustrated. However, the drive to complete the tasks and to reach my goals is powerful. This perseverance produces an unbalanced life, but it also generates momentum. As I consider entering a Ph.D. program in the next few years, I wonder how it will affect my relationship with my loved ones. While I yearn for a balanced life, the drive to push myself to the limits is stronger.
Faith is at the core of my being. My desire to worship God manifests in several ways such as singing, writing songs, and searching for Jesus’ fingerprints on all situations of my life. I also love photography. Though my skills with the camera are basic, I excel in the editing process. From one picture I can create several different portraits by focusing on various features. I like to capture scenes from nature, exploring colors, and texture. As a biology major, I have a deep knowledge of the cellular components and ecosystems, for example, and I love to magnify these features in my pictures. When I decided to print one of my pictures for my new office, it was daunting to choose from my shots because all have an emotional attachment for me. Having this area of passion gives me an understanding of other’s areas of expertise. Chasing beauty, whether in arts, technology, interpersonal relationships, is derived from our Father in heaven. Professionally, I have a passion for understanding the international student experience. Acculturation is a challenging process for students. As I pursue a possible Ph.D., I want to study student experiences firsthand so that I can make a difference in their lives. In the same way, as I serve as a high school vice principal, I now appreciate adolescents struggle with acculturation too. While the factors of the language barrier and food might be what an international student struggles with, adolescents struggle with barriers such as maturing and creating an empowered life.
How We Do What We Do!
In my organization, there are two cultures. One is the culture within the classroom, which is friendly, caring, approachable, humorous, and willing to connect. The other culture is the staff interacting with each other, which I characterize as respectful, efficient, valuing of each other’s opinions, and motivated by student success. They are professional with each other, not prone to gossip, do not mingle much, value to-the-point communication, and they do not like to waste time.
Ungerer et al. (2014) purport “Power is experienced through relationships and its virtue is visible in the way leaders choose to do what they do” (p. 16). Although I am new to my senior administrative leadership role, I already observe my desire to share power. I respect the gifts and talents within my staff, and I do not claim to know more than them. Through trust in their professionalism, I am open to their suggestions about how to streamline things, for example. Instead of taking their idea to implement, I encourage them to implement it by supporting it with my authority. Ungerer et al. (2016) posit “the positive use of personal and positional power in an organizational context is all about giving it away and sharing it, not with egocentric motives, not claiming special privileges, but working with and through others to make things happen that would not otherwise be possible” (p. 16).
Sharing and distributing leadership based on expertise fosters respect and value. Ungerer et al. (2014) also state “command-and-control approach to leadership is becoming less and less viable” (p. 17).
I also desire to communicate well with my staff, aligning the daily tasks with the organization’s mission, vision, and values. Hughes et al. (2014) state “Tactics may be misaligned because people throughout the organization don’t really understand what the strategy means for them on a day-to-day basis” (p. 34). Efficiently streamlining information has been a valuing initiative I have implemented since taking leadership, to which many on my team have noted as beneficial and supportive of their practice. Hughes et al. (2014) warn leaders when “formal and coordinated communication systems are ineffective or nonexistent … people get mixed messages about the strategy” (p. 34). Thus, I value effective communication in my work culture.
To Sum It All Up….
The Old Meets New
I just recently stepped into a senior administrative position. Whereas I was once a new member of the high school teaching staff a few years ago, I am now the designated leader. There is a shift in my relationships as we all learn our roles, and was a moment when my first reaction was “co-option” as described by Ungerer et al. (2016). For example, an emergency bell went off, which turned out to be a false alarm bell. At the time, I expected all of the teachers would follow my lead to evacuate the building. I was offended when they didn’t, seeking out their information instead of following me. I felt those who did not follow were not being submissive to my authority. I sought out the principal to assert my authority in the situation, which later I realized was heavy-handed and controlling. It was a teachable moment, but I used rank and authority instead of respect and collaboration.
“Leading from a new economy values perspective represents a specific way of being a leader as well as doing things differently by serving the interest of others as a core starting point” (Ungerer et al., 2016, p. 16). Under the new economy values, I plan to approach these ‘heavy-handed’ situations with conversation, guidance, redirection and working through the impact of everyone doing different things in an emergency. Through other’s opinions and rationale, there may be a way to harness the independent thoughts towards creating leadership roles in such situations, thereby delegating my role to empowers others exercising foresight.
Let’s Get to It!
To become a more effective strategic leader, I must create appropriate time allowances to understand and assess the underlying issues in each circumstance fully. Delaying my responses will foster the processing and reflecting time I need, as outlined in the initial assessment of my strategic capabilities at the beginning of the chapter. Hughes et al. (2014) explain “leaders must mine their trial for new information and knowledge that might, in fact, negate their strongly held opinions, and they must use this new information to guide the decisions and actions taken” (p. 21).
It is imperative for me to remember I am part of an administrative team. Hughes et al. (2014) remind us “In the world of strategic leadership, it is clear that no single person can do what is needed to achieve the enduring performance potential of the organization” (p. 42). Therefore, trying to solve problems independently undermines the team’s ability to “develop a collective and shared understanding of a situation” (Hughes et al., 2014, p. 23). My trepidatious reaction to circumstances is actually not necessary! As a team member, I am invited to “ignite the power and potential of the entire organization in service of its performance potential” by engaging in the “hearts, hands, and minds of people in the work to ensure shared direction, alignment, and commitment!” (Hughes et al., 2014, pp.39 and 43).
I am ready to get to it!
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