In response to the post, “Leadership / Lonely,” a reader writes:
“I admit that I am enjoying this blog. However, as a new administrator I am struck by the absolute confidence that you and the other writers display in your comments. Do all successful principals have this level of absolute confidence in what will be, or is it just a bluff, or what? How in the world do you develop that level of supreme sureness in your own abilities? How do you deal with the doubts, or do you even have them. I would love to contribute but I just do not feel I know enough to even know where to start. My coaches always told me that we learn more from our losses than our victories. If so you guys must have lost some big ones to get where you are now. Any suggestions for a rookie?”
Great questions! I actually started laughing (at us, not you) as I read your comment, because your questions are so on target. Let me answer them in order.
1. I do think that most successful principals are supremely confident. It’s not that they are sure that things will turn out as they plan. They just know that whatever problem arises, they and their team will be able to figure out the answer. It is the belief that given enough time, anything can be solved. Once you “know” that, you go from being a potential victim of fate to controlling your destiny.
2. Experience and overcoming adversity is what puts you into supreme confidence mode. Once you have faced utter ruin and survived, ordinary problems become less of a big deal.
3. Everyone has doubts. We are in the people business, so nothing is completely sure or predictable. The key is to make decisions as soon as you have just enough information to be reasonably sure of the results and then be willing to adapt as better information becomes available. Forward motion creates both confidence and success.
4. There’s no entrance exam to contribute. We learn as much from working with rookies as we do from veterans. The right question at the right time can clarify a line of reasoning. Fresh eyes make us re-examine processes. I was actually sharing with a principal today, that a question from a rookie AP, drives much of my current research and development. The question, “How do you quantify what your gut tells you?”
5. You hit the nail on the head. I constantly remind the people that I work with that the “brilliant” insights that I have are often the result of long strings of failed and sub-par solutions.
6. As for advice, tackle the problems that nobody else wants any part of. Solve them and you create value for the organization. Fail and at least you know one more thing not to do.
And yes, as a group we can be quite full of ourselves. As Fred Richardson says, “A good principal is frequently wrong and never in doubt.”
Think. Work. Achieve.