Leadership Values : A Self-Assessment

by ajc

The following is an exercise aimed at informing oneself of their values with regards to school administration.

Identifying My Core Values of Leadership

I was to first generate a list of values that I believe “guide my behavior”. That list, constructed over breakfast a couple of days ago, is below.

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Openness
  • Commitment
  • Inquisitiveness
  • Compassion
  • Fairness
  • Strength
  • Scholarship

Next, I was to read through a list of values and their definitions, and subsequently select my “top five values” from this list. The idea here (I think) is to force you into prioritizing. There was a total of 46 values, and while there was some redundancy built into the list, focusing on such a large number is unrealistic. My strategy (though I’m not sure I was supposed to pursue this task strategically) was to look for the most inclusive values. I then assigned the remaining values as subordinate members of the five groups identified by these “top-level” qualities. A visual representation of my work can be viewed below. Clicking on the image will load the original (PDF) file in a new window.

Leadership_Values.png

For the most part, the values that I originally listed showed up on the new list. Certainly, there were some items enumerated here that I had not considered originally. I’ve filled in the nodes corresponding to those items that I initially itemized. (A full-sized, unfilled in version of the chart can be obtained here.) Those qualities that did not have a counterpart are identified by the term (Added). I took some liberties, as I judged “Life-Long-Learning” and “Scholarship” to be one and the same. Similarly, “Initiative & Sense of Urgency” was deemed so close to “Commitment” that creating a new node seems unnecessary.

Identified Values Impact on My Behavior

Below I attempt to describe my values and beliefs about the people, ideas, and philosophies associated with school leadership.

  • Leadership: I value leaders who have a vision, who are calculated yet take risks if need be, and who fight/stand up for this vision if challenged. I believe that this type of leadership is hard, tough psychologically (it wears on you), and nearly impossible to recover once one has moved towards a more political position.
  • Students: I value students energy, their creativity, their compassion, and their stubbornness. I believe that students are right about school in more ways than we’d like to admit; I believe that many spend too much of their time on their own or in poor situations, and that considering these realities when engaging them in any way often determines the way in which they choose to respond.
  • Staff members: I value staff member’s dedication to their students, their willingness to take work home (grading/planning), and their openness to new ideas. I believe that it is very easy to loose one’s passion (I know that I did at times), and that becoming less passionate about teaching can be self-reinforcing. I believe that the commitment of educators, as in any other profession, varies a great deal. And, this reality is problematic (for school leaders in particular) due to the large degree to which our future is based on their performance.
  • Community building: Community building is important in that communities serve so many functions within an organization. They cultivate a feeling of togetherness; they allow individuals to feed of each other’s energy and to learn from each other. Community fights to remove the lines and divisions that so often and so easily materialize within organizations, helping return the focus to the individual and each person’s humanity, rather than their title or role.
  • Curriculum, instruction & assessment: I value the interrelatedness of these pillars of teaching and learning, as I do their product instructional design. Their value cannot be overstated. But, without a teacher’s belief in themselves, their students, and a commitment demonstrated by the dedication of time required to cause real change, they grow brittle and weak, unable to bear their hefty responsibilities.
  • Learning: I value the way in which learning opportunities arise out of the unlikeliness of circumstance, and conversely, the degree of concentration that learning often requires. I believe that learning can be implicit or explicit, that good teachers notice and act on learning opportunities as they arise, and that the best teachers learn with their students.
  • Professional Development: I value the way in which traditional professional development allows staff to congregate and work towards a common goal. I value it’s ability to generate a sense of togetherness and a staff-wide understanding of large goals / initiatives. However, I believe that large, whole-staff professional development events, by their very nature, fail to reach a significant number of staff members. And, for this reason, I believe that individualized approaches to professional development should be pursued.
  • Supervision: I value the supervisor’s ability to provide a vision and inspire an organization to meet the goals necessary to fulfill their potential. I believe that the qualities that make a good supervisor are not so different from those that make a good teacher; one must be caring, compassionate, honest, fair, and hard working. Most of all, good teachers and supervisors must be willing and able to critically assesses a multitude of variables, and subsequently act in ways that are empathetic and self-assured.
  • Communication: I value thoughtful questions, and the ability of non-verbal cues to make all the difference when two human beings converse. I believe in what Rogoff called “intersubjectivity”, or shared meaning, though sometimes I fail to live up to these lofty expectations when involved in a heated exchange. I believe that that the most difficult things are those that need to be communicated most clearly and with the most care, and that regardless of our efforts and/or intentions, there will always be times when we must apologize because we have misspoke.
  • Change: I value the ability of change to allow individuals to reinvent themselves and to encourage personal growth. I believe that change is the only constant, and that those who fight the “inertia” of change maintain a uniformly one-dimensional view of the world.

Personal Vision Statement

My school’s mission statement is worded in the following way.

Provide knowledge, skill development and experiences necessary for a lifetime of personal and professional growth.

From my perspective, there is a very real difference between a “mission” statement and a “vision” statement. A mission statement describes what we want to do. A vision statement is more about who we should be. My personal vision statement might be constructed as follows.

Public education’s future rests on its ability to harness the natural energy of the young, and the degree to which educators can cultivate a culture of collaborative participation based on openness, mutual respect, and citizenship.

It’s a bit wordy, I know.

The point is that we have to allow our students to participate/contribute in/to the online world. They know, even if it is only at the level of the subconscious, that something is wrong when school blocks out so much of the world. It’s really as simple as this: Would you rather write something for your teacher to read, or something for the entire world?

Comments and/or critiques are welcomed.