Just Do It: How to be a great teacher leader without wearing yourself out!

Julie Hiltz in Education Week this month has some sage advice for teachers (and anyone else in an organization) who have a great idea — don’t ask permission — just do it! stairs03

To be fair, her article doesn’t argue that teacher leaders should go against  organizational policies — but she does say “build your own sandbox” to play in, when your colleagues won’t play with you. And that’s great advice, because waiting for permission is a lousy way to lead, because you’re stuck at the bottom of the staircase waiting, waiting, waiting, instead of moving up when you have the energy to go!

Here’s some of her other advice:
1. IDENTIFY YOUR PASSION! One thing you’d do, not a whole smorgasbord, your PASSION. Pick something that’s in your control, and make that your focus. I’ve seen this with my clients — this kind of focus makes action (and leadership) easier!

2. CONNECT WITH OTHER TEACHERS! Oh yes, connection is the most important thing! Lean in, collaborate, create a coalition, communicate and share your passion. This fits my model for Honeycomb Leadership, which is less about titles and power than about gathering to create new possibilities.

3. BE PATIENT. This one’s maybe the hardest step. Hilz writes, “If no one’s following you, are you still a leader? Short answer: Yes! Sometimes you’re charting new ground that others just can’t wrap their brains around—yet.” So while you build your own playground to make your passion real and connect with others, take things one step at a time. That’s how things happen anyway….Read more of her article…

I would add one or two more words of advice for the teacher leader with a passion…

  1. AVOID THE VOLUNTEER PENALTY AT ALL COSTS! Too many organizations “punish” people who have great ideas by saying, “Fabulous! You do it!” instead of asking if others want to volunteer or building coalition. (This is the reverse of being denied permission to do something — you get the obligation to do it and someone else will define the task for you!) If you’re building your own sandbox, choose the sandbox you want, build it, and then share the glory so your organization can build a bigger one WITH you….
  2. BE AUTHENTIC, STRATEGICALLY! Let your authenticity fuel your passion and action instead of claiming it as a fierce identity that you have to defend to the death! (You know the difference…) And build authentic relationships to support your passion. That way, you’ll be less bothered by the colleagues who Just Don’t Get It!

Last but not least, whenever possible, let yourself HAVE FUN with your passion, so you become one of those leaders people just like to be near, a leader, as Hiltz says, who mentors other leaders, and inspires by being joyfully present.

Want to learn more about Honeycomb Leadership and Carol Burbank? Contact me!


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