The Anatomy of a Great Leader: Everything and the Exact Opposite

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Leadership is bringing out the best in yourself, the best in others and the best in all situations. And those of us who have been in leadership positions (teacher leaders, counselors, campus admin, district admin, mom, dad, etc.) for any amount of time know that sometimes it is rather difficult to find the best in some of those cringe-worthy situations. But it is up to us, the LEADERS, to guide everyone through the rough waters and find the “why” behind what just occurred. It is at those most difficult moments that it is crucial to serve your purpose as a leader and as a person.

In the ten years that I have been a campus administrator, I always felt like I knew what my purpose was and how I was supposed to grow in that capacity. It wasn’t until my experience with Holdsworth, as part of the Cohort 2 Campus Leadership Program, that I realized my purpose can (and should be) fulfilled in a multitude of ways. At our recent session in New York, our guest speaker posed a question to us from the beginning:

“What is more important – your values or your behavior telling us what your values are?”

Surprisingly, when trying to talk through my answer to this question with colleagues at my table, I quickly began to realize that I have been looking at my leadership journey all wrong. There have been many times over the past several years that I have found myself battling my inner self when grappling with how to handle certain situations. I have said, on several occasions, “This is just so frustrating because this situation is making me handle things in a way that I am not comfortable with. I feel like it is forcing me to be someone I am not!” It was at that moment that I realized that it needs to be more about inner realization, rather than outer dispensation. Sometimes being a leader means we have to feel uncomfortable. In order to be a good leader, you need to make sure that every decision you make is deeply connected to your inner core – your purpose. And when it comes to a situation like mine, where I am just one person in the giant scheme of a large 6A Texas high school, I realized that for my campus to be successful, then I, as the leader, need to make sure I am investing in myself. So often we lose ourselves in the midst of this thing called leadership. We get so consumed with taking care of others that we soon forget our own needs.

To serve our purpose as leaders to our full potential, we must invest in ourselves. And sometimes that means that we have to lead from the front and not the back. Most of us have always been taught that good leaders “lead from the back and empower others to go first and take the lead.” We do this so that we can take care of our people and make sure they get what they need. We figure that if we are in the back, we can see everything going on and supply them with the resources they need to be successful. But let’s stop and think about that for a minute. What happens by the time we go through all of the people in front of us and give them what they need? Most likely, we are exhausted and unable to muster the energy to care for ourselves, much less be ready to go to battle the next day. Wouldn’t it be great if we invested in ourselves every once in a while too? As leaders, we can do so much more when we take the time to invest in ourselves. The analogy they used with us at our Holdsworth session was to think about the Sun. The core of the sun only accounts for 1% of its total volume. But it is responsible for 98-99% of its energy. Can you imagine what life would be like if the core of the sun was just too tired to work on any given day?  That one small piece affects so many things much bigger than itself.

To be a great leader, you have to be everything…and the exact opposite. Great leaders are adaptive and tenacious; they are decisive and patient; they are a risk-taker and a risk-manager; they are connected and disconnected; they are extroverts and introverts; they are visionary and pragmatic. You have to be okay with the fact that sometimes you “have to be someone who feels uncomfortable” if that is how the situation needs to be handled in order to align to your own inner core/purpose. Each situation lends itself to a different characteristic that will take the lead. We have to keep in mind that those tough moments are training us to be a better person, a better leader, and be more connected to our purpose. It is at that moment that we need to make the undesirable desirable. You see, as leaders, we are free to choose the actions we take but not the consequences. Different situations call for different actions, and great leaders know which action to employ at the right time. They know this because they are deeply connected to their purpose. They are authentic. When you are authentic, your purpose trumps your personality because your purpose is part of your inner core. 

Being everything and the exact opposite is exhausting and not an easy feat. But to nurture this leadership philosophy, you must have daily discipline as you are on this journey. Daily introspection and reflection are key. Every moment in life matters. Every moment in our leadership journey matters and those moments are gifts! We are all heroes in someone’s life, and we owe it to them to always give our best. Sometimes, giving our best means that it is okay to nurture our inner core and take care of ourselves. We don’t want an exhausted core to take away all of the beautiful rays of sunshine we see every day on our campus!

 




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Klein ISD is a school district in Klein, Texas located in northwestern Harris County. The district spans approximately 87.5 square miles and serves more than 54,000 students in one early childhood and pre-kindergarten center, one high school program of choice, 31 elementary schools, 10 intermediate campuses, and 5 high schools.

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