Leaders create energy within school communities

"Leaders in their everyday behaviors can make an enormous difference in activating and renewing the energy that people bring to their work." —Jane Dutton (Photo: Dennis Sparks)

Leaders’ energy has a profound effect on the energy and motivation of the school community. When leaders cultivate their energy and encourage others to do the same, they fulfill their responsibilities as stewards of organizational energy. Important sources of energy for leaders and for school communities are connections to their most important purposes, to others within and outside the community, and to their own inner resources.

In The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz emphasize the energy that is generated when individuals connect their work to their deepest purposes so that they believe that what they are doing really matters. Awareness of and tangible progress toward those purposes is a vital source of energy for leaders and for community members.

Vital and sustaining connections to others are a second source of energy for leaders and the school community. Jane Dutton, author of Energize Your Workplace: How to Create and Sustain High-Quality Connections at Work, told me in an interview for the Journal of Staff Development that there are no formulas for such connections and that “. . . it is the simple things, like being present or being more authentically who they are, that produces a long-lasting impact on their organizations. . . . What’s important is that we give ourselves license to be present, to bring ourselves emotionally and physically to the interaction.”

A third source of energy for leaders and school communities is their sense of connection to their own unique “greatness” and talents. To that end, Dutton encourages leaders to conduct a “Reflected Best Self Assessment” in which they ask 20 friends, family members, or colleagues to each tell them three stories about how they added value to their lives. Leaders then write a “reflected best self portrait” which describes them at their best and set goals to make changes in their lives based on what they learned. According to Dutton, leaders who engage in this process “experience a deep affirmation of their unique greatness” and “see themselves as being much more efficacious.”

Strengthen your leadership practice by . . .

• identifying a specific way you connect with your fundamental purposes, with colleagues, and/or with your “best self” to increase your personal energy and that of the school community. Share your intention with others to generate social support.

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