Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Iconic Leadership Lessons for Challenging Times


By Vicki Bechard, LFKS Secretary

It goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway.  2020 has been a year of disruption and discomfort; sadness and loss.  Any given year has personal and societal highs and lows but in this particular year, everything seems to be bigger, harder, and more overwhelming than most of us can remember.  With so much out of whack – even the weather – we struggle to stay positive and know what to do.  We have mourned as COVID upset our everyday lives and took lives we weren’t ready to give up.  We miss the familiarity of close contact, time worn traditions, and effective practices now set aside to fight an enemy that does more than make us sick.  Schools – both from teaching and learning perspectives - have seen so many changes in such a short amount of time, leading us to anxiously shift out of our comfort zones.  It has also been a time of opportunity as we have redesigned by necessity and at a record breaking pace. We have many heroes in our state that stepped up and led a coordinated effort to help identify the best ways forward for teaching and learning.  No one got the summer off (not that educators really do…).  As educators, we continued to learn, revise, and redesign. There now may be new ways of doing things that we might just keep doing as we go forward.  Necessity is the mother of invention or so they say…. 

In addition to wrestling with the effects of COVID, key public figures have died in both expected and unexpected ways causing us to stop and consider their impact and influence on us personally and as a society.  Most recently we mourn the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, who was a champion for equal rights for women, voter integrity, and constitutional protections for all people.  There have been so many quotes attributed to her, shared by the thousands, even millions, as they celebrate her legacy and mourn her passing.  We can learn so much from the way she lived her life and the carefully chosen words she shared in court opinions, speeches, and interviews.  My favorite quote to date that Justice Ginsberg cited was about leadership. 

“Fight for what you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

Isn’t that the purist form of leadership?  Having a passion for what you want to accomplish and engaging/empowering others are what it’s all about.  Regardless of your organization or leadership role, it is no different as we face new and ever-changing challenges in our schools today.  We still are passionate about teaching and learning.  We still want others to join us in this journey of excellence.

LFKS is currently focused on how we can support school leaders of all types during these challenging times.  While conferences get changed to virtual formats  or postponed entirely, we are seeking to find ways to connect and share ideas that are useful and purposeful.  We are currently offering a new 3-part virtual conference on leadership that begins in October, and are creating a collection of useful and timely resources to be shared with educators and leaders.  Both of these projects will support the work of schools throughout the state (and beyond), providing ideas, resources, and tools to facilitate how to address local issues and challenges that school leaders face. 

Our passion in LFKS is professional learning.  We care about leaders.  We care about teachers.  We care about each one of you.  Through it all we want you to join us in our mission to ensure there is excellent teaching and learning every day.

Basketball star Kobe Bryant, who tragically left us too soon, underscored Justice Ginsberg’s idea of leading others to join you with this valuable advice:

“The most important thing is to try to inspire people so they can be great in whatever they want to do.”

Again we ask, isn’t that the purist form of teaching and leadership:  Inspiring and empowering others to ensure excellent teaching and learning every day?

Representative John Lewis, famous for his Civil Rights activism, lived a long and productive life following his passion and inspiring others.  This quote attributed to him really speaks to each of us as we go through these turbulent times,

“If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

We can wait around for someone else to tell us what to do or we can act.   We want to keep learning and growing as educators and leaders, so we ask ourselves and our teams:

What do we want to accomplish?

What knowledge and skills do we need?  

What resources can help? 

Where can I go for ideas?

How can we use what we have differently? 

And at all times we want to remind ourselves: If not us, then who?  If not now, then when? 

The work we are doing now is hard.  There are critics and Monday morning quarterbacks second-guessing our every move.  The data and information change daily. It is hard work and at the same time, worthwhile work.  It is important that we keep going because our kids are worth it.  And as John Lewis so wisely noted: 

“Never let anyone – any person or any force – dampen, dim or diminish your light.”

For without our inner light, we cannot get through the darkness of our fatigue, sadness, challenges or obstacles. You can do it and in the process, lead others to join you in this most important work.

Please join LFKS for our Fall Virtual Leadership Conference.  (If not us, then who? )

Register today!  (If not now, then when?)