August 24, 2020
Dear New Superintendents,

Last week I wrote about communication; this week, it’s about relationships.  As a superintendent, you are viewed by many as powerful, important, and sometimes “untouchable.”  There is truth that you hold a great deal of power in your role, but how you use that power...matters.

Remember when you were a teacher and a student saw you at a grocery store and was mesmerized that you bought groceries?  Their context was only of you as a teacher in a were a superstar at the grocery store buying bread and they couldn’t see you in another context outside of the classroom.  And as you’ve worked your way through a leadership cycle to become a superintendent, this still holds true now, not only for students, but for your staff, parents and community.

Building relationships is more than simply giving people face time and being visible.  It is more than scheduling meetings to bring people together around a table. It’s about the people- do you KNOW your people?  Do you know their family life?  Do you know their hopes and fears and aspirations?  I worked for a superintendent who knew EVERY SINGLE THING about her administrators and her teachers- her first comment to a staff member was always asking about their children or something she knew about them personally.  She knew how to build relationships, and a result, everyone trusted her- because she was REAL and made it about them, not her.

Right now, more than ever, you must build real meaningful relationships.  You must let people know about YOU...let them know you do not have all the answers (because you don’t and you never will, which is more than ok!).  Let them know that you are also worried, stressed, sad, anxious- whatever it is- this shows that you are HUMAN…this job is not about ego, a title or importance- this job is a profession about PEOPLE.  Never be more worried about your own ego than the people and the organization you serve.  We can lose sight of this.

Building relationships is grounded in communication- Clear, honest, concise, regular communication.  Now is not the time to give a part of the story or a part of the is the time (and should always be the time) to give the full truth, give space for people to see you and talk to you, and for you to be real, open and vulnerable. Set the tone right away that you will communicate early, often...and be consistent.  This will build relationships.

The best leaders are those who can leave the ego at the door, are willing to be vulnerable, be open and be themselves...they see and GROW the talent in won’t know the talent surrounding you until you actually roll your sleeves up, get right in there with your Board, administration and staff, and just LISTEN.  

Want to test this out?  Go home and ask whoever you live with (spouse, children, parent, sibling, etc.) simply this:  “Am I a good listener?”

You’ll know your next step in growing your leadership by that answer...then you can reflect, improve and be better for yourself and for others.  True happiness comes not from what we GET but from what we GIVE…Remember- you’re leaving your legacy every day. 

Stay safe, and stay strong,