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A Fresh Start for Leaders

by Dr. Bruce Ellis

Many of us enjoy the new year: the idea of a new beginning, a fresh start, a time to make some changes that we’ve thought about making, but just haven’t gotten around to. You may be like that as well, looking for a time when you can hit the reset button and start with fresh motivation to do the things you know you want to do and become the leader that you’ve wanted to be. Here are some tips that I have come across that have encouraged me to make the time for change. I hope you’ll find them encouraging as well.

Talk to Strangers

It’s very easy to not venture outside our normal realm of daily acquaintances. And, for most of our work, we do have a limited number of folks that we typically talk with for input, ideas, and suggestions. Stephanie Vozza encourages us to be a little more extroverted and connect with others. I was recently at a social event where I only knew two people. I didn’t want to follow them around the whole evening, so I made a point to meet several new folks and find out a little about them. Though I’d prefer to stay in the background, I was able to make several new acquaintances that might just turn into great business friends, which wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t talked to strangers. Who on your campus or district can you get to know better in this new year?

Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

All leaders have areas in which they are less talented and where failure may sometimes happen. When it does, it can cause us to fear failure. We mistakenly think that avoiding failure is another definition of success. This new year, let’s rework our thinking and be a little less fearful of failure. Thomas Edison said, “I’ve failed my way to success.” What a role model! The Leadership Freak shares ten strategies that will help you rethink failure and start using forward-facing language as you talk to yourself. And be sure to apply to same philosophy to your staff and students.

Act Like a Leader

Josh Linkner encourages leaders to act like leaders. That is, don’t be so distracted by your work that you forget about those who work for you. Yes, they may not understand all that you are going through or the decisions you have to make. But that’s not their job. If you’ve been distracted, take a moment to step back and ask yourself what is something you can do to encourage them. It’s not that you are doing their work for them, but that you are stepping into their world and being in the moment with them to recognize the time and effort they put in to doing a great job – and letting them know you appreciate them.

Everything Is Negotiable (Almost)

Bruce Tulgan, in his book It’s Okay to be the Boss, encourages leaders to consider what requests/duties are negotiable. First begin by identifying what the non-negotiables are; those are essential to the job and can’t be compromised. Everything else is negotiable if it leads to getting the job done as expected (or better). Checking off a list can make you feel like you’ve accomplished something. But if it doesn’t add to the core mission, then you might want to examine your thinking and start considering what is actually negotiable.

Play to Their Strengths

It’s easy to get into the habit of expecting everyone to produce the same outcome at the same quality level. Rarely do we have a staff in which everyone produces the same stellar work. Buckingham and Coffman detailed in First, Break all the Rules how leaders can start to focus on the strengths of their staff for better productivity. Instead of getting frustrated with your staff, start playing to their strengths. Reconsider what each person brings to the table. How can you tweak what they do so they are able to spend more energy using their strengths than in hiding their weaknesses?

What Will You Do?

The new year is here. We all have things we’d like to change and improve. What actions will you take to start making a difference in leading? You can choose to do nothing different. But then don’t expect anything other than what you are currently getting. Or you can consider this as a time for fresh starts and begin freeing yourself to be the leader you really want to be.


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