Saturday, August 10, 2013

Why I Lead

Did you ever start doing something and then think... “Wow, that got a little more involved than I thought”? I think every leadership opportunity I have had in my life started as a good idea that turned into something much bigger...and in the long run better...but as it’s hard to see the forest through the trees it is equally as hard to see the impact of leadership through the daily grind.  Sometimes it’s nice to refocus. George Couros (@gcouros) started a virtual leadership mentoring program this summer (#SAVMP) and I thought it would be a good way to share some knowledge and learn from those around me when it comes to mentoring in a new way.  After a few weeks, multiple posts by incredible educators, and the connection to phenomenal leaders across the world, I have already found myself pushing leadership thought and learning from everyone involved. The first thing George asked us to do was reflect on why we lead.  Sometimes I wonder, but never are some of the thoughts that came to mind:

Flickr via Michael Dales
I lead because it drives me
The opportunity to grow and help others grow drives what I do on a daily basis...and honestly, consumes me at times.  If I can get one new resource into the hands of a teacher who needs it, make a new connection with a student who is struggling, or promote the great things going on in our district, I feel like I have helped move the group forward. Above my desk sits My 3...a piece of paper that I am forced to look at everyday...and it keeps me focused on the true importance of why we do what we do.  My 3 are: Every Teacher...Every Day, Follow Through...No Excuses, Connect with All Students.  I adjusted them recently and feedback from our staff was the impetus for that change.  We have a duty to listen to what our group is saying and it is our responsibility to make changes to what we do to help them grow.  We expect our teachers to evolve...we should be held to the same standard. Reviewing the data and developing a plan to get better helps me become more transparent and I think our group enjoys the fact that they know what I am working on professionally.

I lead to be the voice of those who don’t
I am the loudest person you will ever meet...and it’s not close.  I find it ironic that I often tell my kids to lower their voices (which inevitably leads to the eye roll from my gorgeous wife).  There are time that being the loudest person ever is an issue...but there are others when being the loudest helps advocate.  Our kids and teachers do great things...not good things...great things.  They make amazing connections, have always been willing to try new things, and work tirelessly with our students.  I see them at sporting events, concerts, plays...I saw one teacher at MULTIPLE birthday parties for her students outside of school...they are amazing and the volume of my voice, hundreds of tweets/posts, and the fact that I will stop anyone in the streets to tell them about the great things happening in Fall Creek is one of the positives of being the loudest.

I lead for them
Most importantly...I lead for kids.  All kids...we owe it to them.  Not because it is our job, or because someone did it for us, or even because they will be taking care of us someday...we owe it to them because they deserve the best. No questions...they come to us as innocent 4 year olds and trust that we will help make them better.  They test our patience and we spend the majority of our professional lives having our happiness determined by the attitudes and actions of kids ages 4-18.  Having said that, we chose this and they deserve everything we can do to make their time with us magical.  We are going through a building remodel this summer...and as I walk through hallways that are changing, a playground that is new, and rooms that are much more inviting I start to countdown the days until we’ll all be back together again.  Our building is going to be great...but it’s not school until they come. I can’t wait to see the look on their faces when they walk through the doors or hit the playground for the first time.  There is something about a child’s smile...and helping to provide an environment where SMILES ARE THE DEFAULT make me extremely happy...and is a clear reason why I lead.


  1. Great post, Joe. I love that you say that you will be the voice for others and share the great things going on in your school system, especially as you champion for the teachers who go above and beyond job requirements because they have a true connection and investment in their students.

    I hope the remodel goes well and you have a terrific start to the new year!

  2. Joe,
    Thank you so much for sharing this post with us - I LOVE IT! I am so inspired by your passion, enthusiasm and level of dedication to your community and specifically your students! WOW! It is rare to encounter a superintendent with this type of hands on approach (I am lucky to work for one) but I can assure you that it means the world to your staff! Thank you for sharing your philosophy with us - I, for one, would be proud to have your loud voice representing me!