Difference makers in local communities display the ability and willingness to better others and the worlds they live in. Everyone has the ABILITY TO, the key differentiator is WILLINGNESS. A select group of the willing are about to take the stage and assume their starring role in making their communities better. Their stage is the classroom.
A Front Row Seat
While I am not an educator, I have a solid perspective on the work they do. I have had a front row seat for Shannon’s twelve years of teaching. In fact, as I write this post, she’s spending her last Sunday before school starts preparing for the first day of school tomorrow. Folders, paper, and a laptop spread out across the living room floor.
Over the years, I’ve watched her grade papers late into the evening, take calls from parents after hours, update the school website on the weekend, attend seminars during the summer, be a staunch advocate for children with unique needs, and lead a team of teachers. She works exhaustively to make sure every single kid in her classroom receives a quality education by day, then changes into her cape to become Supermom by night.
Over the next few weeks, teachers across this country willingly head into our nation’s most critical mission field, the education of our future. This week, we explore four leadership lessons we learn from teachers and their willingness to better other others and the world they live in:
Willingness to Keep Walking
Baseball legend Ted Williams once said, “the hardest thing to do in sports is to hit a round ball with a round bat, square.” I believe that one of the hardest things to do in this world is to get a group of twenty-five to thirty-five kids with distinctly different needs and learning styles to meet the same, expected standard. Tack on pandemics, school safety, testing, evolving standards, and coupled with the emotional and physical needs of students because they are more to those children than just a teacher. They willingly walk into these kid’s lives, sometimes when others walk out.
Leadership is not for the faint of heart. My Paw Paw once told me, “James…one of the hardest things you will ever do is manage people.” He could not have been more spot on. Each of us have the tremendous challenge to get a unique set of individuals to willingly work towards a common purpose, even when the path is littered with pandemics, supply chain issues, inflation, labor shortages, and who knows what else. When our willingness wains, just put one foot in front of the other and keep walking.
Willingness to Leave It Better Than You Found It.
In education, there are pre-tests and post-tests. It is a measuring stick of the progress a student makes from beginning to end. An educator’s ultimate goal is to leave every student better than they found them before the pre-test. They do this by willingly investing in the kids by equipping them with knowledge to pass the post-test.
Our post-test as leaders consists of one question, “Did we leave people better than we found them?” It’s a single pass or fail question. Again, we all have the ability to, but are we willing? Willing demonstrates that our investment in others is intentional. People feel and follow intentionality. Use this brief study guide to ace the leadership post-test…leave people better than you found them by investing in them and equipping them with the tools they need to be successful.
Willingness to Assume Responsibility
As the school year kicks off, teachers assume the responsibility of everyone’s most prized possessions, their children. They are trusted to love them, care for them, keep them safe, and educate them. I can only imagine the gravity of that responsibility. Most of us do not adequately comprehend the weight of that burden. They willingly carry it.
When you bring on a team member, you assume the responsibility for them and the provision that job brings their family. Whenever I have had to terminate anyone for cause, most people’s reaction is, “I bet you are glad.” “No, not really,” is generally my response. A good leader first struggles with their own failure to develop the person, then faces the harsh reality of how that decision affects the family they go home to.
We need to come to grip with the awesome responsibility we assume when we lead others. People’s livelihoods are on the line each and every day. Our willingness to assume responsibility for and truly understand how heavy that burden is becomes pivotal in our leadership journeys. The people we lead are our organization’s most prized possession, they are your responsibility. The higher you climb, the heavier the burden.
Succeed Despite the Critics
I always find it amusing when people offer their perspectives on teaching who have never led a classroom. I am quite certain that most of those individuals with “expert” opinions on how the education system can be improved upon could not last a day in the classroom. A SINGLE day. Educators are innocent bystanders of public policy debates from opinionated people and policy makers with all their “proposed” solutions. Despite the critical world we live in, they willingly walk in day after day and serve the needs of their top priority, their students. It defines their success.
Critics are everywhere you turn. The smartest people in the room, that always have the better idea. You know these people. If you don’t…well…find a mirror. They are exhaustive and can serve as a distraction to you and your team’s mission.
Aristotle said, “to avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” Wise words from a man that lived thousands of years before the internet ever existed! Critics can discourage your willingness to stay on course to do the right thing for the greater good. The counter to a good critic is to stay focused on your why, bettering others and the world you serve. Your energy is better placed there than wasting on miserable, hypercritical people.
I once heard someone say that, “children are the messages we will send to a time we will not see.” They are the dividend the world receives as a return on our investment in them. Educators epitomize what it is to willingly serve others. A level of service that invests in something they may not see the generational impact of.
Each of us are teachers in our leadership journey and we can make the same impact on the lives of the people we lead. The question is are we willing to invest the time, energy, and resources to better the people we lead (others) and the world (our organizations and communities) we live in? You have the ability, are you willing?