Leadership and Learning – Part One

My last post, The Importance of Staying Connected, was completely focused on the need to stay connected to classroom. As leaders, we definitely have to make time for experiencing new learning alongside classroom teachers. We should also be making time for personal growth and development. There are a variety of ways to do this: attending conferences, going to regional training events, district-based professional development, etc. How do you/we personalize that experience? I have found that the best way for me to grow is to focus my attention on the things that I am the most passionate about. That can be a hard task, especially with the daily demands that come along with being an administrator at any level. In this next series of blog posts, I plan to share strategies & resources I use for my own professional growth. Ready?! Let’s dive in!

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

 – John F. Kennedy

Professional Books Focused on Personal Growth & Development

There are plenty of books out there that will tell you they discovered the magic formula to becoming a leader. I’m here to tell you that there isn’t one. Are there commons characteristics of good leaders? Of course those exist. Are there books available that discuss those characteristics? There are so many I’ve lost count. If you look on the books shelves in many offices (maybe even yours) and in the professional learning library on many campuses & district offices you’ll find multiple copies of the most popular titles available. But reading a book will never teach you how to be a good leader; it will only teach you how that person became a good leader.

In order to be an effective leader, you have to be willing to first work on yourself. What are your biggest areas of growth? What are the aspects of your personality that will inhibit your growth as a leader? Figure out the answers to those questions, and then look for books that will help you grow and develop in those specific areas.

“Leadership development is self development.”

John G. Agno

Personally, I like to focus on books that are short, quick reads. As a wife & mom with a full-time job that requires so much attention, I don’t have the energy to devote to 200+ pages of much of anything. I also like to look for books that include self-assessments for the reader to engage with. Titles like this allow you personalize the content so that you are directly focused on the areas that will allow you to see the biggest results. There’s nothing wrong with having more than enough knowledge in any given area. However, in my opinion there is also added value in laser focusing on a specific skillset so that you can quickly implement the changes that you desire. The titles that I have spent time with most recently were/are directly connected to areas that I wanted to see improvement.

For example, when I first took this position, I quickly learned the meaning of “the squeaky wheel gets all the grease.” This bothered me greatly, but I didn’t know what to do to avoid the pitfalls of the squeaky wheel. It seemed as if the system was set up to grease the squeaky wheels. And because my brain defaults to systems & processes, my only solution was to figure out how to change the system within my own department. To help with the process & to help work on a new way of thinking, I picked up a copy of Shifting the Monkey by Todd Whitaker. During the next school year, my focus was on making meetings more meaningful and purposeful. To do that, I focused on becoming a better facilitator myself. Based on the recommendation of a dear friend & colleague, I picked up a copy of Lemons to Lemonade by Garmston & Zimmerman. I loved how this book walked me through assessing my own skill level, and then personalizing the work that I would do to get better as a facilitator.

In both of these examples, I was able to quickly consume the information, internalize the message, and apply the new learning to my current situation. In my opinion, both of these quick reads have been some of the best professional development I have experienced as a leader. I would encourage you to search for professional books that meet the needs that you have in the current moment. There will never be a time when we are given more hours in a day or more days in the week. But we can change what we do with the hours & days that we are given.

What are some short, quick reads that you would recommend? Please comment and share below. I look forward to hearing from you, and I’ll hope you’ll join me for the next installment in this series.

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