Leadership magazine May/June 2015 V 44 No 5 - Page 33

VIEW Point Seven daily habits of effective school leaders The actions that effective leaders take on a daily basis are driven by intentional, deliberate processes aligned with the highest leverage areas of need. By Devin Vodicka and Lisa Gonzales N umerous textbooks, research articles and online resources seek to define and explain the abstract concept of leadership. A Google scholar search using the term “school leadership” generated 2.6 million links in less than one second. Less abundant and understood, perhaps, is what effective school leaders actually do on a daily basis. Those daily actions become habits that form our character and our destiny. Every leader has a unique style that is based on his or her own personality. In our experience, effective leaders are those who have a plan that informs their schedule. That plan should be ref lective of their priorities, taking into account any urgent needs that evolve based on their own individual context. In other words, the daily actions of effective leaders are driven by intentional, deliberate processes that are designed for alignment with the highest leverage, most critical areas of need. 1. Daily schedules. Daily schedules are typically organized into some kind of “weekly review” that provides for ongoing adjustments. With an understanding that our schedules are often impacted by events beyond our control, what follows are the elements that are included in an optimal day from our own perspectives. 2. Time in classrooms. Spending time with students in classrooms is an absolute imperative for effective leadership. Starting the day walking through classrooms and getting a sense of what is actually happening in terms of teaching and learning is time very well spent. As a site leader, this often provides opportunities to check in with students and staff regarding ongoing concerns, and to help anticipate the rest of the day. As a district leader, the visibility and symbolic value of a school visit are absolutely beneficial. Frequent visits will also help to develop relationships that may otherwise be difficult to establish from within the context of a district office. 3. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. In the current digital age, communication often consists of responding to emails. We both suggest that strategic use of social media will enhance a leader’s effectiveness. Having systems to manage email and social media tools are imperative to maximize the use of time and enhance the effectiveness of the efforts. Text messaging is becoming much more frequent and is an area with great potential in terms of improving our communication with various constituencies. Even sending simple reminders via text appears to be an effective approach. 4. Take care of you. The effective leader also makes time in the day for self-care. This can include taking a quick walking break to get some fresh air, drinking water, and dedicating time to eat a healthy lunch. Ultimately, leaders who have not taken good care of themselves will do poorly in their attempts to support others. Paradoxically, the best way to take care of others is to ensure that the leader is well enough to do so. 5. Exercise and sleep. Effective leaders take the time to exercise, which not only fortifies the body but has also been shown to sharpen the mind and improve our thinking. The effective leader knows being well rested is vital to ensuring the awareness and presence essential to making decisions throughout the day. Too often, leaders sacrifice their own well being for percei ٕ