District and campus leaders will need highly specialized professional learning as 2020 moves forward. We have three essential recommendations for them.
We are in uncharted waters in Texas and the rest of the United States as school and district leaders. We are charged with “building the plane while flying it” in new and unique ways as we struggle with two tremendous challenges.
First, Covid-19 has presented challenges unheard of in education until 2020. The list of challenges is long, and ranges from providing ample technology and bandwidth to all students to how do we “do school” in the fall of 2020.
Next, let’s amplify that with the incredible and much needed movement to create anti-racist schools and learning experiences for our students, our teachers, and yes, for ourselves as leaders. Do we know what teachers need to lead students through this? Do WE know how to lead teachers through this, so THEY can lead their students?
Leaders are now charged with finding the answers to each of these challenges and questions, and we know three ways we can support leaders during Covid-19 and Social Unrest. These are the “3 C’s” of support we recommend for campus and district leaders in 2020.
Recommendation 1: Education leaders need new and relevant CONTENT during any professional learning they encounter as 2020 continues.
Sure, the standard PD topics are always relevant. Professional learning communities, school culture and climate, formative assessment, classroom management and others are all important PD topics. However, they are plentiful, common, and not enough to give leaders the tools they need in tumultuous 2020.
What leaders also do not need is “shot in the arm, drive by PD.” Leaders need systemic, continuous, job embedded PD that is competency based and gives them the tools and strategies they need in these perplexing times. We favor a PD framework that includes five competencies:
- Leading Change
- Leading Others
- Leading Stakeholders
- Leading the Organization
- Leading Results
The MBA-like framework allows leaders to experience curriculum not taught in traditional preparation programs nor as part of standard professional development. It also offers them tools and strategies to help them lead more effectively from the campus or district level.
Leaders also need highly specialized content. We believe the most critical content currently needed would be managing change, advanced problem solving, building trust, telling his or her story, communicating during a crisis, leading yourself and leading teams, how to lead through a pandemic, and learning anti-racist methods of schooling and equity-related content.
This content needs to be delivered in conjunction with a leading university and via esteemed faculty and national presenters.1
Recommendation 2: Education leaders need to learn in a COHORT model and network with like-minded leaders.
We have heard it said, “the smartest person in the room IS the room.” We have found that the collective wisdom of like-minded leaders who learn with and from each other is just as powerful as the content mentioned above. That said, specific spaces and protocols need to be in place for this sort of learning to occur. One way we believe works well is the cohort model, which research shows as an effective and relevant learning tool for leaders 2.
A cohort model provides an active, interactive, and dynamic setting for leaders to grow their knowledge and skills. Leaders are brought together to build community, foster creativity, hone their leadership skills, and encourage personal growth. The cohort model is the togetherness model. As participants study together, they develop strong relationships, which transcends course material into life skill training, valuable networking, and professional friendships.
This is a challenge, as learning is mostly virtual now; however, this does not mean it is impossible. Using virtual platforms and mastering their collaborative features has shown to work effectively to build this sense of community, but it takes deep planning and preparation, networking opportunities, and the support of a virtual producer.
Two cohorts of Texas school and district leaders who recently experienced such a cohort model with embedded networking were asked several questions on a survey. Here are the results (n=90):
- The networking opportunities were of value to me. (96% Strongly Agree/Agree)
- The networking opportunities allowed me to learn and apply new tools/strategies in my school and/or district. (98% Strongly Agree/Agree)
- We had enough networking opportunities during programming: (90% Strongly Agree/Agree)
Recommendation 3: School and district leaders need professional leadership COACHING so they can show up the best versions of themselves.
Leadership coaching is very common in the business world, yet not so common in education for leaders. We believe it is not only important, but also essential that all leaders are coached by a board certified, highly credentialed coach.
How do you feel as a leader going into the fall 2020 semester? Do you feel balanced, resilient, empowered and prepared to lead through the pandemic? To tackle the sticky issues of social unrest? To lead, possibly virtually?
As we approach the opening of school in 2020, in whatever form, strong leadership is needed now more than ever. Strong leadership is dependent on the strength and durability of each leader. Leaders must be the best version of themselves to lead others most effectively. Leadership is an “inside job”, and coaching transforms the way leaders think and act.
Leadership coaching has nine specific benefits that leaders can take advantage of:
- Empowers leaders and helps them to become effective agents of change.
- Provides support to leaders in developing cohesive plans in terms of their focus and how they lead day to day.
- Clarifies and aligns a leader’s priorities.
- Addresses leadership “gaps” in a proactive and positive way.
- Meets leaders where they are through personalized and individualized support.
- Provides leaders with an incredible sounding board and thought partner.
- Allows leaders to see how their leadership is perceived from multiple stakeholders.
- Provides accountability and support that leads to great execution on key initiatives.
- Creates balance and emotional resilience in leaders, which decreases turnover.
Using 360 assessments and personality inventories, coaches work with leaders to create the work-life balance they need and to set personal and professional goals for themselves. Coaching can be a life-changing experience.
After six sessions of Leadership Coaching with a board-certified coach, 134 participants were asked to rate the following prompts:
- I am becoming a better leader as a result of my Leadership Coaching experience. (99% Strongly Agree/Agree)
- I have a clearer vision of who I need to be as a result of my Leadership Coaching. (99% Strongly Agree/Agree)
- I am more self-aware as a result of my Leadership Coaching. (99% Strongly Agree/Agree)
- After Leadership Coaching, I know the importance of balancing my life. (99% Strongly Agree/Agree)
- Leadership Coaching and my scripts have helped me to articulate my leadership and life goals. (99% Strongly Agree/Agree
- Through my Executive Coaching, I realize that when I lead myself more effectively, I lead others better. (99% Strongly Agree/Agree)
Leaders who were coached were asked, “Finish this statement: My biggest take away from my Executive Coaching experience is…”
“Being a great leader starts with me. How I perceive me to be but also how my peers and family perceives me to be, matters. My self-talk highly influences me, and my self-talk should be mostly positive. I should be my own best friend first before trying to lead others.”
“That all the areas of my life are important (professional, wellness and relational), If I foster balance in my life, I will become a better leader. The Coaching Experience was amazing to me!”
In our view, leadership coaching is the way we develop the “Whole Leader.” Education emphasize sound SEL practices for students, yet leaders need this just as much, if not more, during the current landscape in Texas and the United States.
We are proud at Leadership Partners to offer professional development for campus and district leaders that contains all three C’s:
- Content: Our Executive Education Academy at Rice University, our own specialized curriculum, and highly sought-after national presenters create the rich and relevant content we spoke of earlier.
- Cohort Model: Our leaders span Texas-wide from over 40 school districts. We create the conditions and spaces for these leaders to learn with and from each other.
- Coaching: We have four highly credentialed, experienced, board certified coaches to help leaders create the work-life balance they need and set professional and personal goals for themselves.
We have a decade of experience working with 800+ leaders from over 40 school districts throughout Texas. We would like you to become part of this vibrant, amazing network.
Please leave comments and join our network below, follow us on social media, and visit our home page! We would love to share more about our unique approach to leadership development and support!
Once you join us, keep a look out for announcements to join our free, virtual “Leadership Huddles” and PD weekends we have planned for this fall and 2021. Stay safe!
1 Leithwood, K., Seashore Louis, K., Anderson, S. & Wahlstrom, K. (2004). How leadership influences student learning. New York: Wallace Foundation. Retrieved December 12, 2019, from http://www.wallacefoundation.org/
2 Davis, S., Darling-Hammond, L., LaPointe, M., & Meyerson, D. (2005). Developing successful principals. Stanford, CA: Stanford Educational Leadership Institute.