Personal Strategic Development Assessment

Marcelo’s Leadership Journey in Paraguay

Personal Strategic Development Assessment

Moving from the United States to Paraguay in 2012 and accepting the job as a principal at this new school called Colegio Johannes Gutenberg Campo 9 forced me to look at what it means to be a leader. Leadership is for me as much of a call as it is situational. I answered a call from God to become a leader in Paraguay, but, when I could not imagine myself to be a principal in the United States, I realize I am growing into the position and have many gifts to share with those I lead here in South America.

Having a strong sense of calling makes has made it challenging to separate what is personal and what is professional. My attitude, responses, and views are much the same regarding what is personal and what is professional.

Coming to Paraguay and learning to lead in a cross-cultural environment has challenged me to lead by faith. I have a sentence posted on my desk that says, “solamente las personas que pueden ver lo invisible logran hacer lo imposible” (only those that can see the invisible can accomplish the impossible). It is difficult to describe the innumerous circumstances making my job incredibly challenging as a principal. Shortage of teachers, poorly prepared staff, low pay, lack of discipline and ethical values, teaching for the pay, poor communication skills, are some of the challenges I face every day. Many of my staff have grown in a challenging environment and have never had the opportunity to see their professional life from a different perspective.

My response to these challenges has changed over the past six years. I learned changes happened slowly and determined to be patient. It is a painstaking job. Taking small steps at a time is difficult, and progress seems not to come quick enough. I often meditate in Scripture and prayer. I have also realized that I need to further my education as a principal and learn new strategies and skills. Besides, I committed to being disciplined and not give up.

I have not always handled well the stressors that come with the job. I have noticed a certain health decline which also encouraged me to jog more often and remain active. I tend to get very irritated and distance myself from people. I also noticed I have a short temper with fellow staff members when under too much pressure.

During these times, I have committed myself to rest well and take short breaks to renew my thoughts and my attitude. Through conversations with Dr. Wu in 2017, I became aware I need to find people to talk to, not distance myself from others, and continue to exercise and taking time for prayer. Some of the stressors are also the result of a lack of cultural understanding. It means I need to learn to adjust and be more understanding. At work, I have surrounded myself with staff members I can trust and build confidence. My greatest weaknesses is a lack of patience with the school’s improvement, staff’s lack of professional commitment to the job, and an attitude of perfection, and tendency to be undecided under pressure. On the other hand, I realize I am a person of discipline and a strong sense of calling for the job.

Although I never took the time to develop a personal mission statement for me professionally and personally, I have lived by these words these last few years. The words calling, serving, discipleship, humbleness are essential The below statements are as much of a mission as a vision. I have not accomplished them yet, but are in the process of becoming more like these words.

Mission:

  • Professional: Daily engage God’s calling to lead and serve those around me as a disciple of Christ.
  • Personally: To lead and to serve humbly as a husband, father, and friend.

Vision

  • Professional: To be a transformed disciple of Christ who engages others to serve and follow God´s call.
  • Personally: To be a servant leader as a husband, father, and friend.

If I look at closely which values I live by I can say I foster discipline, honesty, openness, and good stewardship.

I believe I can achieve my mission and vision if I continue to keep an active relationship with God through prayer and reading God´s Word, maintain a learning attitude, and promote servant leadership. Areas I would like to excel in are openness, self-assurance and self-awareness, collective decision making, and servant leadership. Part of the process to achieve new goals also mean one needs to let go of old habits. For me, this means leaving behind the fear of failure and thinking I am not good enough.

I want people around me to realize God wants to lead us all and He would like to reveal His purpose for our lives. As His servants, we are called to be servants to others. As a servant we are also invited to listen, to care, to be relational, and help others realize the potential God had given them. I also believe there should be no difference between who we are personally and professionally. Currently, I live in a very autocratic and dictatorial society. The culture around me was been shaped by many years to political dictatorship, mistrust, and abuse. Some staff members have a difficulty understanding democracy and that such freedoms also mean respect for others. From an outsider´s perspective, the small steps one is taking might still seem a “power over,” but they are steps in the process of “power with.”

As with anything in life, once you commit to change, there is always the temptation to fall back into old habits when things become difficult. There is also the need to interpret the culture and take necessary steps. Too big of a leap might not bring the desired outcomes. I noticed some of my staff members seem to only react to old economy strategies. Not all are ready and prepared to take part in the decision-making process. People need to be guided and lead into the process of decision-making, especially when they never had the opportunity to do so. During the process of sharing leadership, I was labeled as a weak leader, since I seem to lack authoritative power. A good leader, by Paraguayan perspectives, does not ask questions or take suggestions from others. To build a new culture, I plan to continue to teach servant leadership skills among students and staff members and dialogue with co-workers about what it means to share responsibilities and leadership.

There is still a big learning curve awaiting my staff and me as we engage the process of becoming leaders in the new economy. I have much to learn yet and much to share with those I lead. Hughes, Beatty, and Dinwoodie (2014) mention as well that becoming a strategic leader requires creating community and to think long-term (p.11, 15). A strategic leader thinks beyond the here and now to look at what changes need to be made today to bring long-term impact. I am also aware strategy involves change, transformation, and it is a discovery process (Hughes, Beatty & Dinwoodie, 2014, pp.15, 16, 28). As much as we do not like change, it must be part of who we are. But, I appreciate the discovery process, which means one needs to continuously learn and adapt. I live in a very traditional community, and people are very resistant to change and to learn new skills. It takes much dialogue and resilience to move in a new direction.

Since the school was created in 2013, I slowly hired and kept staff members engaged in the process of working in a new economy environment. We build community, commitment, and understand it takes much work to bring transformation in a very traditional society. We learned a lot these years and knew we need to continue to determine if we want to bring significant change to education in Paraguay. On the other hand, I also know I need to avoid the “kitchen sink” strategy (Hughes, Beatty & Dinwoodie, 2014, p. 27). Difficult decisions must sometimes be made. Some staff left and did not incorporate our philosophy. I must continue to build a strong staff community that is willing and ready to change and change others.

Reference:

Hughes R., Colarelli-Beatty K. & Dinwoodie  D. (2014) Becoming a strategic leader. (2nd Ed.). San  Francisco: Jossey-Bass.