Leading for Results Means Leaders First Change Themselves

The first step in Leading for Results is looking in the mirror to decide what we will change about ourselves. (Photo: Dennis Sparks)

Leading for results begins by looking in the mirror to decide what we will first change about ourselves. As the old saying reminds us, “If we do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always gotten.”

That means the first step in creating continuous improvements in teaching, learning, and relationships in schools is changing what we believe, understand, say, and do on a consistent basis. When we change—or as I like to describe it, “show up differently”—those with whom we interact have no choice but to adapt and learn new ways to respond to us and to the new situation.

It is a common human tendency to see the shortcomings and limitations of others before noticing our own complicity in maintaining the status quo. It’s also natural that we believe that the barriers to change reside outside ourselves rather than in our current ways of thinking and behaving. School leaders sometimes confide in me that they don’t feel like their learning or actions make much difference because their influence is severely limited by forces more powerful than themselves—constraints such as federal or state legislation, lack of resources, or union contracts.

Unfortunately, if left unchallenged such views lead to resignation and cynicism that can infect the entire school community. As leaders we are often unwittingly complicit in inhibiting change in ways that are not always evident to us.

Therefore, substantial changes in teaching, learning, and relationships in schools begin with deep changes in our own beliefs, understandings, and actions. When we begin a journey of professional learning and personal growth that stretches us in significant ways we demonstrate our deep commitment to schools in which all students and adults thrive.

To strengthen your leadership practice

Take a few minutes to identify a belief you might alter, an understanding you might deepen, a relationship you could strengthen through your attention to it, or a behavior you could alter that would promote the achievement of an important school goal. In each of these areas be as precise as possible about your intention. I encourage you to share your intention in the comment section of this post and with colleagues “back home” to gain clarity and to strengthen your commitment to “showing up differently.”

If you haven’t already done so, please subscribe to this blog and recommend it to colleagues. Also, please send questions that may be addressed in future posts to me at thinkingpartner@gmail.com.

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