In response to the posts on “Staff Urgency,” a reader writes:
“SC is right on. I am an experienced principal, but currently find myself in a unique position. I have little power, officially. So instead, I have learned to use the power of influence. I have had both, power and influence, in the course of my career. Guess which one is more powerful? Hint: it is NOT power.
The right teacher with the right philosophy with the right student results can be a powerful force in a school. In the long run, weak principals do not stand a chance against such a person.”
The exercise of raw force, though in many cases is effective in the short run, quickly loses its effectiveness over time. Influence and a sense of purpose are the currency of both the successful informal and formal leader.
When I was responsible for multiple campuses, I had informal leaders spread throughout the system who had as much credibility and influence as I did. It was imperative to both my success and the success of the organization that we remain on the same page. So instead of fighting or ignoring these leaders, I included them in my information, feedback and decision making loops. Not because they had a “formal” vote (they didn’t, you can’t abdicate your responsibility), but because if they weren’t aware of the direction the organization was moving, they could quickly shift from being an asset to a liability, without meaning to do so.
First by happy accident and then by purposeful action, I began to lead with the council of the exceptional teacher leader. Did we always agree? Of course not. But with honest dialogue and a focus on student needs, we solved more problems than we created.
My advice to school leaders is to not be afraid to use power, but don’t overuse it. When you have to draw a line in the sand, do so with both confidence and zealous energy. But in most other cases, your mission is to point the organization in the right direction, provide the necessary tools and support, and free up your people to do their jobs.
Think. Work. Achieve.