Leadership Lessons from Captain Sully
I recently read an article in the Chicago Tribune by Leigh Buchanan. This article was an interview done with Captain Sully Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who successfully landed a plane in the Hudson River after the plane struck a group of birds that disabled the plane.
Sully explained how a team works, and it starts with core values. Live what you believe and make very apparent to those around you what you value. In light of the many examples of leaders demonstrating poor core values that seem to make the news each day, we as leaders of education institutions need to make sure we are leading with our own core values and that our leadership team understands those values.
Dr. Nancy Blair, who leads the IASA School for Advanced Leadership, has participants complete a core value exercise. In this exercise the participants are given over 100 core values and each participant must narrow the list down to their top five values. I duplicate this exercise in our "Work - Life Balance" academy. Many times the participants list values such as the following as their top values:
When I ask the participants if these values represent the way they spend their time and effort, they really start to second guess what their true values really are. As leaders we need to have this core value discussion among our fellow leaders. We need to insure that we have similar values and these values are leading our actual behaviors.
As Sully points out in the above referenced article, "If you walk the talk, people notice it. And if you don't, they notice it. So I think trying to model the attitudes, the behavior, the values that you believe in, that you want to see. If you do that, it can be contagious. Courage can be contagious. Compassion can be contagious. Competence. Continuous learning. Constantly striving for excellence can be contagious. And that benefits not just you and your team but also society."
Lessons Learned Concerning Board-Superintendent Relationships
Doug Eadie, publisher of
recorded and released a podcast with Superintendent Jose Espinoza and Illinois Superintendent Nick Polyak of Leyden Township High School District on "Building a Strong Partnership With the Board." I was especially interested in this podcast because of the title and also because I had mentored Nick during his first year as a school superintendent in Illinois.
I jotted down several notes from the podcast that I would like to share for both new and veteran superintendents. The comments I have bolded below are from the podcast and then I offer my interpretation of the comments after the bold words:
- Not the owner - Jose reminded fellow superintendents that they are not the owner of the school district; they are the chief executive officer. This is an area I have written about before but is worthy of a revisit. I have seen superintendents get into trouble when they think their idea is the only one that counts. The board members are the elected representatives from the community and they represent the owners of the school district, the taxpayers. Jose mentions that the superintendent will be the loser if he/she gets into a power struggle with individual board members. I agree with this statement. No matter how great you might think your idea is you need to remember that leadership includes others in the decision-making and implementation processes.
- Lunch with board members - Nick talks about having lunch with individual board members on a regular basis. I have written about this suggestion before. Superintendents need to get to know the board members as persons, as parents of their own children, as workers in their own occupations, and as members of the community. There are many positive reasons to develop relationships with school board members but one of the best ways to explain this building of relationships is through a metaphor I have used in the past. When building relationships with people I liken it to adding pennies into a large jar. Each time you form a good relationship with a person you are depositing pennies into the jar. There will be a time when you will have to recommend an action that the individual does not like. You just hope when you make the decision the individual does not turn the jar over and dump out all the pennies. You hope a few pennies are left in the jar so you can continue to try to deposit more pennies in the future. If there are no pennies in the jar to begin with, or just a few pennies, when you make the unpopular decision or recommendation there will be none left after they turn the jar upside down. This might be the time you will need to look for other employment.
- Actions speak louder than words - Both Jose and Nick commented that it is imperative that the school leader be authentic and proper in both their personal life as well as their professional life. How you treat others will be very important to your long-term tenure in a position. This includes employees as well as community members. You must have strong character and always exhibit proper behavior.
- Keep your team of 8 together - Both Jose and Nick offer several positive suggestions for forming a team with the seven school board members and the superintendent. Nick suggested answering to all board members when one board member requests specific information. Jose talks about measuring success as a superintendent and remembering that it is not individual success, it is a team effort.
At the AASA conference I attended a session on time management titled Level 5 Time Management for School Leaders. The presenters talked about three types of addictions; 1) to paper; 2) to electronic communication; and 3) to power and control. The key to being more efficient is to find solutions to the addictions you have to free up more time to work on important tasks like improving student achievement, or spending more time with family and friends. The following are some of the tips I made notes of while in the session:
- Use your secretary/administrative assistant better. Many functions of an administrator could be delegated to other personnel or your secretary could help you complete them. For example, if a high school student requests that you write a letter of recommendation for college acceptance, the secretary could obtain the student cumulative file and draft the letter. The secretary would then give the letter to you to add any personal information you want to add and then complete and send the letter to the student. The same process could work for a a letter of recommendation for an employee.
- Modify how you read and react to email. The presenter suggested that all emails automatically go to your secretary as well as you. Your secretary views and reads the emails first. She deletes all junk or non-useful emails. She then answers all emails for you that are routine and do not need your response. She then forwards all emails to you that you need to respond to. You only check your email twice a day. Once in the morning when you arrive at work and once in the evening prior to leaving. Your secretary checks back with you daily to see if you have responded to the emails that she has forwarded.
- Touch paper only one time. Again, your secretary could be a good help by going through your mail and other papers that come to your office and dividing the paper into different piles for action. Some paper could be disregarded, some the secretary could take care of, some could be delegated and some will require your attention. You would set aside time in your daily schedule to take care of all paper coming to you from the secretary, and the secretary would make sure at the end of the day in a meeting with you that you have completed all of your required responses.
Tip of the Week
I just read a great article by Eric Barker titled "10 things you should do every day to improve your life, according to science." To read the article click here.
The 10 things are:
- Get out in nature
- Spend time with friends and family
- Express gratitude
- Get enough sleep
- Challenge yourself
- Touch someone
- Be optimistic