Personal Strategic Development Assessment
Leadership appears in many forms in a myriad of environments with varying degrees of influence. Real leadership is sometimes unrecognizable compared to the traditional notion of the leader being the one with the most power or holding the highest position. In current workplaces, a true leader is one who builds up others to perform their tasks more efficiently and effectively without sacrificing more than a task should require. The longer I work in education, the more necessary it becomes to support administration to lead wisely and consistently in the whirlwind of constant change. The following discussion includes both a personal and professional perspective on strategic leadership applied in an educational setting and how I accidentally began this journey.
Responding to Stress
Accountability to others heightens the need for responsible decisions and attention to detail. Conflicting or competing expectations create unavoidable opportunities for stressful conversations and situations. Today’s work world is fraught with individual expectations, many of which do not fall in line with the workplace mission, vision or values (MVV) but require attention for a more complete investment in the work community. “Servant leaders build community to provide a place where people can feel safe and connected with others, but are still allowed to express their own individuality” (Northouse, 2013, p. 223). By investing in my colleagues, I find more meaningful reaction to the constantly changing parameters of my teaching career. Restructuring schedules, adapting teaching approaches, and collaboration reduces the isolation of being in a classroom and creates opportunity for sharing the stress each day brings. Being committed to the growth of people in my personal and family life (Northouse, 2013) also mitigates the stressors of life’s uncontrollable events. Informed and purposeful decision-making does not prevent all problems, but it does reduce panicked reactionary responses.
“Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31) is a simple concept. Stress is usually a sign of competing motivations which need sorting out to focus on what is essential. Growing up in small town Canada where most of my Mennonite family gathered monthly or attended church together weekly reinforced the importance of living well wherever I went; serving others was as natural as breathing.
I don’t naturally seek leadership opportunities but having been in teaching long enough to offer some helpful hints to beginning teachers places me in a position where not doing so is selfish. Paul admonishes his student, Timothy, to be aware of how he lives among those to whom he is ministering (I Timothy 4: 11-16). My alignment with scriptural principles is the foundation for leadership decisions, especially when I feel inadequate or incapable. I discovered that if I want to see strong leadership in my school, it depends on me to support, encourage, and model effective leadership strategies. I must be positive; I must be proactive; I must be present today and prepared for the future.
Developing My Personal Mission, Vision, and Values
My educational leadership journey is one of accidental decisions. I only wanted to take a few courses to renew my joy of teaching and regain some of the purpose I experienced when I began teaching a few decades ago. The many rapid-fire changes occurring in the educational world created disillusionment and panic for many experienced teachers and administrators. I realized I needed to be flexible enough to embrace change or I would break under the ever-increasing demands of the job and my newly-acquired family life.
Choosing to take a few courses seemed an appropriate measure for an educator, and I wanted a more spiritual focus. What a delight and relief it was to discover a leadership approach which embodied the scriptural principles I was practicing in my public education career all these years! Transformational servant leadership (TSL) resonates with my daily faith-filled practice. Developing personal mission, vision, and value statements (MVV) is the logical result of my re-education on leadership and part of the ongoing learning process. “Strategy involves change, and achieving long-term performance potential in an ever-changing environment requires continuous change” (Hughes, Beatty, & Dinwoodie, 2014, p. 21).
A mission statement provides the guiding principle for decisions, conversations, and actions stemming from the personal into the professional. My walk and my talk should match and support my practice wherever I go (James 3:13); people should be able to count on my consistency and rely on my leadership. Developing a mission statement focuses my vision and values to remain faithful and steady for the duration of my career and reminds me that I am in the business of educating people to live successfully beyond the walls of the elementary school:
My mission is to prepare people to live fully and confidently in the knowledge they are uniquely created for a purpose larger than themselves and to equip them for their express calling (Proverbs 22:6).
Delineating a vision presents specific features to assist the activation of my mission. In Navigating Strategic Possibilities, the authors quote Tom Boardman who states, “You need a clear and compelling vision to take people along with you towards new goals and objectives. It requires passionate, committed and ethical people to move together towards a clearer vision” (Ungerer, Ungerer, & Herholdt, 2016, p. 65). My enduring priorities include the following:
• My spiritual health is the foundation for living out my mission.
• To encourage, support, and assist all generations of my family.
• Continue to plan well for transformational lessons which demonstrate godly principles,
even if they cannot be explicit.
• Mentor other teachers, educational assistants, administrators and parents to develop
a repertoire of strategies for sound educational practice.
Since values represent the foundational premises for the mission and vision, it is necessary for me to base all my practices on biblical principles. Working in the public education system requires diligence to ensure consistency between my teaching, my conversations, and my choices (Ungerer et al., 2016, p. 67). The power inherent in a teaching position necessitates wise application; it’s impact is far-reaching and often life-long. TSL is the leadership model for all positions and levels of education to ensure consistent use of purposeful, intentional teaching practices. “Transformational leadership is not merely directive. It is concerned with the performance and development of followers to their maximum potential” (Imbenzi, Page, & Willaume, 2018, para. 14).
Key Strategic Drivers
Trying to make my workplace or family life follow my MVV will not be practical since I cannot do all the work nor can I control all the factors which inevitably come up through daily living. Setting priorities to maximize my skill set, energy and influence through appropriate settings and opportunities is more effectual.
• I can assist in developing behaviour strategies for children.
• I can clarify curricular requirements in BC’s new curriculum.
• I can complete tasks of organization and streamline meeting practices for our staff to
benefit from their collaboration time.
• I can communicate positive observations for all our staff, including EAs and parent
Trading the Old Economy for the New
Strategic leadership is not about knowing all the answers and making all the decisions as in old economy thinking. New economy thinking involves focus on relationships and building others up to further their own practice (Ungerer et al., 2016, p. 16). The promotion of virtuous leadership inherently develops longevity with a strong moral base (Ungerer et al., 2016, p. 41-51). “Virtuous leadership is the future and excellent businesses will embrace it…because it is part of their moral fibre” (Ungerer et al., 2016, p. 57).
My weakest leadership area is that of visioning. I can identify ineffective functions within our school practice but am usually unable to find workable solutions that fit the restraints of the current educational trends. Negative responses stifle my creativity and innovative thinking due to my old economy thinking there is one right way to solve problems. I need to embrace the polarity of both-and thinking to see more options (Hughes et al., 2014, p. 44).
Knowing my limitations is as important as knowing my strengths. While I am not currently seeking a formal position of leadership, I am very aware of the influence I have within a school or family environment. I am much better at serving and facilitating than I am at leading. Transformational servant leadership (TSL) strategies provide leaders with a framework to make sound decisions, strengthen and guide all staff (Bass & Riggio, 2006, p. 171), and develop school systems which educate students for powerful life decision-making capabilities. Transcending the restrictions of traditional thinking to see new potential in current situations for meeting the mission, vision, and values empowers all workplace members. Enabling others creates a legacy for ongoing flexibility and adaptability in the continually changing, fast-paced world; it strengthens leaders through distribution of leadership responsibilities while accessing divergent thinking for immediate decisions.
Bass, B. M., & Riggio, R. E. (2006). Transformational leadership (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Psychology Press.
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.
Imbenzi, G., Page, D., & Willaume, D. (2018). Transformational servant leadership. Leadership Monograph. Retrieved from https://books.twu.ca/monograph/chapter/transformational-servant-leadership/
Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Ungerer, M., Ungerer, G., & Herholdt, J. (2016). Navigating strategic possibilities: Strategy formulation and execution practices to flourish. Randburg: KR Publishing.