A Personal Strategic Development Journey
ME as a strategic leader
According to Oxford Dictionary (2018) strategic is defined as “relating to the identification of long-term or overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them” (O., 2018).
Where do I currently find myself leading others? As a high school teacher, I influence students to consider taking a deeper look at what relationships are between us, today, and those who lived in the past. I want to hook my students, so they are open and excited about learning and thinking critically about the past, present and future. I also try to balance student engagement along with meeting the learning standards and core competencies for Social Studies, ELL and Career Life Education.
Likewise, I guide students to consider future vocations and help them reflect on who they are as human beings. I direct students to plan their next steps after graduating and show them how to draft a cover letter, compile a resume and acquire letters of reference for their exit portfolios. I challenge students to do much self-reflection, to be mindful and open to new opportunities.
I spearhead field-trips, coordinate guest speakers, and sponsor various clubs and teams at the school, all in a means to enhance and contribute to our school community.
Furthermore, I collaborate with my peers, attend various meetings and participate in pro d workshops both in-house and district-wide, so I can be in-sync with what other educators are implementing. Sometimes I have the opportunity to attend a subject specific pro d workshop or conference that is open to all BC teachers, like the 2018 B. C. Teachers’ Institute on Parliamentary Democracy in Victoria. These opportunities allow me to share new skills and information with other teachers in my departments. In this way I am being strategic in how I choose to invest my time in order that the collective group benefits.
Similarly, I have put my name forward to be part of a health and safety committee at the school in order to get to know one of our VP’s better and to perhaps allow some mentoring to take shape as it is my intention to move into a VP position once I am finished my Masters of Educational Leadership (MAEL) degree.
I find other ways in which I strategically plan as a leader. For example, last school year I took a group of students on an educational tour to Montréal, Québèc City and Ottawa but after putting the trip together last minute I learned if I want my next trip to be even more successful I should start planning early. So as soon as June rolled around I started making plans for my next EF trip for the spring of 2020. I have already begun the advertisements and now have 22 students enrolled and a huge window of time left for more participants to join.
Furthermore, I have learned the importance of praying strategically. As a leader it is wise to seek God and ask for His sovereign direction. Praying strategically and reminding God of promises in His word is powerful and makes the impossible possible (Matthew 19:26).
What is my general response to the circumstances I presently face in my life?
I pray about all the details of my day, both personally and professionally and trust that God will work things out in every circumstance. My plate is fuller than it has ever been before; not only have I taken numerous projects on, I am also working full time for the first time in 12 years. Even though my agenda is packed with meetings and long to-do lists, I know that God is my strength and He will see me through this busy time in my life. Completing my MAEL in a timely fashion is my number one short term goal right now.
One example of something I am facing on a personal level as a parent is dealing with our 11 year old daughter who wants more independence. She has a voice and needs to be treated differently than a little child. Praying about this with others and getting advice from the pastor are ways I have tried to resolve her new independent behavior.
How do I handle the stressors I face?
When I am feeling stressed and overwhelmed there are some standard go to modes I transition to automatically. It does not matter if the problem is personal or professional because I handle stress equally the same whether it is one or the other. The number one thing I always rely on first, before anything else, is prayer. I pray about everything and have some trusted prayer warriors with whom I partner in prayer and entrust with my prayer needs. I like to mediate on God’s word and this is a comfort to me when I am faced with both personal and/or professional stressors.
Another huge help I find for relieving stress is going to the gym, jogging and/or going for long walks/hikes (in the summer) with my husband or sister and listening to praise and worship music all the time.
Carving out time for vacation is also one way I relieve stress from my life and refuel the body. It is also so important for our family to be able to get away from the busyness of life and to enjoy each other in an environment that is far removed from our daily routine. For that reason we make it a priority to travel to Europe once a year to visit family and Spring break to soak up some needed vitamin D.
My sister is my confident and best friend. I talk to her about everything. At school I also have one close confident with whom I seek advice and share. Sometimes I have reached out to other teacher friends in other districts but mostly it is a colleague in my department with whom I confide and seek advice.
What are my wants and needs for changing or strengthening my responses?
I am always feeling guilty that I don’t spend enough time in prayer; so, more prayer, more God time, more fasting and striving to be less busy would be ways to change or strengthen my responses both for my personal and my professional life.
My husband is a great support, as he helps a lot around the house cleaning and taking care of many things in order that I can study, prep lessons and unit plans. However, he often feels like he never sees me because I am so busy and have so many responsibilities for school and university at the moment. We both understand however, this is a temporary inconvenience and we are looking forward to the completion of my coursework, so our lives can go back to some element of normal.
In order for me to change or strengthen my response to feeling overwhelmed I need to lighten my work load. In this way, I could devote more time to God. I could also be a part of a small group at church and volunteer with Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) once again. I have had to drop these activities from my schedule temporarily in order to make post grad studies fit.
My strengths and weaknesses with regard to the desired changes in my life.
Being a planner and super organized is one of my strengths. I always work hard to achieve target dates, whether that is for lesson planning or for course work. However, sometimes all of my time and effort in planning every detail has backfired and when something throws me for a loop I get really upset and have even had melt-downs because something unseen upset my plans. I need to be able to take those little or big surprises and ride the wave without being thrown off my surf board (Hughes, Beatty and Dinwoodie, 2014).
Prayer and finding ways to preserve my God time is another one of my strengths. I know the importance of prayer and spending adequate amounts of time with God in fellowship, therefore I try to attend church faithfully. Working out at the gym is not only a way to decrease stress in my life but I have strategically made it into my God time. I listen to worship music on my iPod touch, watch 700 Hundred Club (while doing the cross-trainer) and read good Christian books that feed my spirit in the sauna. On the way home, I always listen to John McCarthur on Praise 106.5 and sometimes I pray. Similarly, when life is so busy and I am always on the go I use my drive to school every morning as my prayer and worship time. While this is really good and helps keep my focus on God, I also need to apply everything I learn from Scripture so that I become more Christ-like and a stronger warrior for the kingdom. It is one thing to read books and worship God but it is quite another thing to let God’s word totally transform myself so I am more effective for the Kingdom of God.
- What personal mission, vision and values do you practice?
My personal mission is to love the Lord God with all my heart, mind and soul and to love others as Christ has loved me; to lead others to Christ; to show God’s love and to be a light in the darkness. This mission is really the same in all areas of my life (personally, professionally and collectively). God has called me to be an ambassador of the Kingdom of God which precipitates across all areas of my life. Professionally, I have always felt a heavy calling to mentor teens and my current teaching position allows me to fulfill this mandate.
- What key strategic drivers will help YOU create significant impact for achieving your
God’s Word holds me accountable; therefore knowing God’s Word and going back to what God says about all issues in life is how I will achieve my greatest potential. God’s Word is full of His promises for everyone who is born again. As Hughes et al., (2014) purport, strategic drivers, also known as key success factors, are most notably a “determinant of competitive advantage” (p.26). They go on to contend how detriment it is to determine which “strategic drivers to invest in and to excel at- in order to differentiate from others” (p. 27). I have predetermined to believe in and trust God’s Word for my life. Walking close with God and exercising my faith are ways in which I have strategically positioned myself to be triumphant in every circumstance.
In order to trust God and the promises in His Word, I will abandon fear for my future development. Fear prevents a person from taking the next step and realizing their dreams. God has not called us to be fearful but rather to be bold. Two Timothy 1:17 says “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” Furthermore, I will not remain glued to old ways of doing things but will be open-minded to learn new strategies. According to Hughes et al., (2014) “strategy involves change” (p. 21).
Personally, I will excel in perseverance, prayer, faith and love. Professionally, I will excel in being organized, hard-working and devoted.
- What areas will YOU abandon for your future development?
Keeping my future development in consideration, I plan to make the necessary changes needed in order to achieve better results (Hughes et al., 2014). According to Hughes et al., (2014) there is great merit in being able to “weather the storm” when life circumstances go haywire (Hughes et al., p.12). So, instead of being stressed about a situation and letting it get the better of me I will remind myself to be calm and not worry. Sometimes it is helpful to consider a different path of action rather than sticking to the old and familiar way (Hughes et al, 2014).
Lastly, I am working on being more adaptable with my diverse learners and their learning pace. Not all students learn the same way and many students require special adaptations/modifications in order to allow them better chances for success. Therefore, being adaptable and willing to hit the pause button, in order to re-teach key points in my lessons will inevitably help all learners succeed.
- What areas will YOU excel in?
Hughes et al., (2014) suggest “being strategic and keeping my long-term goals in mind” is something noteworthy for strategic leaders to implement (p.15). According to Ungere, Ungere and Herboldt (2016) “strategic success is not based on a single cause, but is the result of various variables interacting in a virtuous way” (p. 2). More to the point, Ungere et al., (2016) point out two important variables of strategic success which I aim to excel in : (1) “the ability to choose the winners from amongst the many available strategic options and (2) the ability to consistently execute these strategic choices in an excellent way” (p.2).
Furthermore, I aim to excel in perseverance, faith, organization, hard work and devotion.
In my personal life I will strive to be a woman devoted to prayer, and seeking God’s guidance and wisdom daily. I will prayerfully look for God’s strength as I seek to emulate more servant leader characteristics.
In my professional life I will be the most dynamic teacher; “to be as in tune with my environment as possible” (Hughes et al., p.19). I will make every effort to know each of my students and care for them and their individual needs. I also aim to be a “strong strategy maker” (p.20). Having an action plan for student success in my classroom will help me better meet the needs of all of my students.
- Explain the personal/professional culture YOU want to develop from the mission, vision, values and drivers envisioned and how they align with your present/future success.
On a personal level I want to leave a spiritually strong legacy for our daughter, for her children and for my family to follow. Leading by example and striving to emulate Jesus is the best way to pass on my personal mission/vision to our daughter. If she sees me praying and seeking God’s guidance in all matters then she will do likewise as it says in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Professionally I hope to leave a culture of kindness at my school. A culture of servant leaders who step up to help each other. It is also my hope and intention to empower the next generation not only to be academically savvy, but also confident learners equipped with the skills to successfully navigate their future. Hughes et al., (2014) sum it up nicely when they state “I want to have good people below me that I can count on” (p.18).
- a. Identify some ‘old economy’ thinking and practices YOU continue to use in your leadership and the outcome(s) you’ve experienced as a result. Include how you plan changing those habits to ‘new economy’ thinking and practice to create an effective personal/professional strategy with the outcome(s) you anticipate as you adopt ‘new economy’ habits in your leadership practice. (Ungerer, Ungerer& Herholdt, pp. xiii-105)
‘Old economy’ thinking and practices I still sometimes go back to, in terms of education are many. I still find myself having a tendency to mark everything, every stitch of homework. I even have my ‘teacher is sage’ moment when I find myself reverting back to too much teacher- talk-time in the classroom. I have also had my ubiquitous teacher moments when asking students on a multiple choice test “When was the War of 812?” Another old economy thinking practice is found in my mark book when I divide a student’s grades into various different bins like ‘tests’ ‘quizzes’ ‘projects’ essays’ and ‘homework.’ Our new curriculum, based on years of research, claims that these old ways of teaching practice are out-dated and damaging to the student. If a student did not master how to ‘fit in’ to a certain mold that was their unfortunate demise.
‘New economy thinking is focused more on adaptability. Teachers need to be adaptable in order to meet all students’ diverse learning needs. Educators are currently in an age of change where new and improved teaching methods are accelerating fast and teachers must keep up. New economy thinking means letting go of multiple choice Scrantron tests and replacing them with rubrics. It also means more project based work rather than individual assignments and accepting projects right up until the report card deadline. New economy thinking is heavy on the formative assessment, which should not be graded, and summative work for marks.
- Provide a personal assessment of needed personal development to become a better strategic leader based on your review of the chapter 1 material. (Hughes, Beatty and Dinwoodie, pp 21-51)
In order to become a strategic leader I must be willing to change (Hughes et al., 2014). Being flexible and open-minded to new ideas and ways of teaching will help me navigate my path and keep my learners engaged (p.37). I must also make changes that progressively build on each other. Hughes et al., contend that it is like a surfer “trying to catch waves at different points relative to their crest” (p.22). If I am consistent in “reflecting on and learning from each attempt” I will move forwards (p.22). Likewise, Hughes et al., (2014) note keeping ones mind-set malleable is also key for growth (p.38).
I must also rely on wielding my strategic drivers, if I hope to gain a competitive advantage. “Strategic drivers”, as Hughes et al., (2014) suggest “give you the greatest strategic leverage and competitive advantage” (p.27). To help expand the point, strategic drivers are “potential areas of investment that will have a significant impact on an organization’s performance potential” (p.26). My energy and enthusiasm to spearhead educational trips, initiate experiential field trips and coordinate guest speakers are some ways I can help leverage myself as an educational leader.
Hughes et al., (2014) also make reference to the ‘hedgehog principle’ which points out the importance of not just having a multitude of different strategies, but rather having “an understanding of what you can be the best at” (p.29). If I put all of my energy into doing what I am already naturally gifted at doing, my talents will help the team flourish exponentially, however, if I am not given opportunity to utilize my talents it would be akin to burying my treasure in the sand (Matthew 25:18).
Empowering others around me to rise up and become strategic leaders is an area I would like to improve. The aforementioned book by Hughes et al., (2014) asserts how important it is for strategic leaders to actively pursue building up others on their team; “encouraging others to span boundaries and create direction, alignment, and commitment in service” (p.46). Currently, in education, strategic leaders are needed to help other teacher colleagues navigate the new curriculum change process (Hughes et al.,). As Hughes et al., (2014) write we need to “invite others to the strategy-making process-buy-in” (p.49). Getting others on board and obtaining buy-in is so critical. Teachers already know the importance of buy-in with student engagement. All the more so for a school district undergoing curriculum change and hoping to get as much buy-in from educators as possible.
- Outline present strategic strengths YOU discovered and how YOU can align them to become a better strategic leader
After completing this exercise and reflecting deeply on where I am now and what strategic strengths I already own, I came up with a short list. One strength I already have is perseverance. I can use my intrinsic perseverance to overcome hardships and to mentor and coach those around me to keep going and not to give up.
Another strength of mine is faith. My faith can help me not only to believe for the impossible but also to dream big. Strategic leaders need to have the capacity to visualize a better future and then to bring it into existence.
Organization is also one of my strengths. From all the literature I have read thus far, strategic leaders are methodical, they make both short and long term goals and carefully plan all the in-between details to ensure success. My ability to see the bigger picture and plan accordingly will help me as a strategic leader.
Similarly, hard work is a strength I have inherited which can help me tackle some of the heavy boulders that need to be removed along the path as I employ strategic leadership in challenging circumstances.
My devotion to prayer and seeking God’s leading is a strength which will help me catch just the right waves at “different points relative to their crest” (Hughes et al., 2014, p.22). My faith will help me grow exponentially as a strategic leader.
Lastly, my new found knowledge of what it means to be a servant leader is yet another strength. I intend to employ a servant leader mind-set as I lead and mentor others. In this way I hope to grow as a strategic leader.
Holy Bible: New International Version. (2001). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Hughes, R. L., Beatty, K. C., & Dinwoodie, D. L. (2014). Becoming a strategic leader your role in your organization’s enduring success. (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Oxford. (2018). Strategic | Definition of strategic in English by Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/strategic
Ungerer, M., Ungerer, G., & Herholdt, J. (2016). Navigating strategic possibilities: Strategy formulation and execution practices to flourish. Randburg:KR Publishing.