NEW ORLEANS - The Alliance for Diversity & Excellence (ADE), an organization that advocates for quality schools and offers support and mentorship for educators, continues their "Leaders Who Inspire Us," digital campaign. The campaign highlights educational leaders who are guiding and influencing other educators in their field. This month, ADE recognizes Tanya Bryant Chief Executive Officer of ReNEW Schools.
1. How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?
Although I've only been the CEO at ReNEW for two years, I've been on staff at ReNEW for almost ten years. Since 2011, one of our values has been "innovate," and I've come to live by that value; and everyone else at ReNEW tends to live it as well. I know that I don't have all the answers, and to push our students and our organization further, we have to think outside the box as a team. I am continually seeking solutions, and the power of our brains together is greater than the power of one. People at ReNEW know how much I value their ideas and opinions. It also really helps that I've been at ReNEW for a very long time. People trust me and know that I will always listen with an open mind.
2. Name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as an educational leader.
One of the founders of ReNEW, Gary Robichaux, had a tremendous impact on me as an educational leader. Gary's love of ReNEW made me love ReNEW. That's the effect I want to have on the people who work for ReNEW. I want people to be able to see the success even before it's achieved and believe in what seems impossible. I love a challenge and what we have in front of us in rebuilding ReNEW is a challenge, but when you have people in the challenge with you that can already see, smell, and taste the results before they happen, you are on the right track. That's what ReNEW was founded upon, and that's what I want people to feel now.
3. What are a few resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader in the educational sector?
I don't think you can do this work unless you have an innate belief in the capabilities of Black and brown students, and a leader must surround themselves and hire people that have this similar mindset. Many resources tackle this topic, and I would recommend the most recent book I read Becoming the Educator They Need by Robert Jackson. I also think leadership is leadership, and it doesn't matter the sector that you're in, so I would also recommend leadership books that transcend any industry. Two of my favorite books are The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell and Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. I often refer back to these two books to regroup when things get rough.
4. What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time or looking to pursue a leadership role?
Take time to learn the organization before trying to implement a variety of new things, and learning takes a lot more listening than it does talking. I say this because I don't think the average person responds well to a lot of changes all at once, even if the changes are beneficial and will encourage the best results. People have to trust the person who is enacting those changes first, and then they will be better able to accept the changes and move forward, on one accord, with the leader. I think many new leaders try to jump right in, change things, and exert authority – that will not work for most new leaders if any. Or, it may work for a short amount of time and then fall apart. Ultimately, a leader can't lead if no one is following them.
5. Why do you think it's important for Black educators to participate in leadership programs such as the Alliance for Diversity and Excellence?
I believe it's essential for people to surround themselves with people that are similar to them and dissimilar to them. Both are important for growth. The Alliance for Diversity and Excellence provides a setting for people of color to express things that motivate them and their challenges due to a lack of diversity in leadership in New Orleans. An organization that recognizes those common situations and provides a safe space to express and share common experiences bolsters a feeling of support and fosters the development of more diverse leaders in the educational arena.