Personal Ethics & Leadership Capacity
October 17, 2008
“I believe leadership is an attitude which transforms behavior rather than a set of discrete skills or qualities, whether innate or acquired.” – Diana Lam, Reinventing School Leadership, 1990
The fifth course in the OCDE Tier 1 Preliminary Administrative Credential Program was Personal Ethics and Leadership Capacity. We worked with Gail Richards and focused on our ethics in the workplace and strategies for a healthy management style. The content of the entire course was applicable and meaningful as a teacher and as an administrator, both personally and professionally. This course and standard has been the most personal and satisfying to work through. Examining rights, responsibilities, and motivation of others led to a strengthening of my leadership ability. I narrowed it down to the fact that leaders must demonstrate good judgment, sensitivity and team building skills.
Administrators must maintain ethical standards of professionalism. We must use good judgment at all times, mindful of all possible sides of a situation, as outlined in Standard 5.1. The basis for this was our Personal Code of Ethics. The five elements I determined to be most important were compassion, responsibility, honesty/integrity, perseverance and cooperation. I added the behaviors and actions that demonstrate these principals. It felt good to identify concretely what I believe to be most important in life. I live by my code of ethics privately and publicly. I must be able to articulate, teach and integrate my code of ethics each and every day with all I come in contact with.
As a school leader, I must guide educational practices with knowledge of the curriculum and use of student data, as described in Standard 5.2. Data-Driven Dialogue by Wellman and Lipton was a great resource to help focus our thinking about use of data to help make sound decisions to benefit kids and promote learning. The authors really drove home the point that data alone has no meaning; people make meaning with dialogue. “Crafting the Container” is a way to start and structure conversations surrounding data. You create a safe space to speak freely, be uncertain and think freely. This “container” allows a person to work within the Collaborative Learning Cycle to brainstorm, analyze data and reflect upon student learning. When working in the container, I learned about the data I must have. Data needs to be from multiple sources. There should not be too much data that it is overwhelming, and it should not be too broad as to cause confusion. Data should be qualitative – descriptive, detailed, specific – as well as quantitative – measurable, statistical, numerical – to be most relevant and reliable. Communication is key, as set forth in Standard 5.2. As a school administrator, I must communicate
School life is really all about teamwork no matter what part we are talking about. People working together need to communicate, and administrators need to control the communication at times. Running an effective meeting facilitates positive feelings, an organized thought-process and a sense of accomplishment. I have been able to plan and run meetings as a Beckman Teacher Trainer. I learned a lot through the process, and I have been able to fix the most important pieces to the meeting puzzle. It will be my job to facilitate and nurture the staff, giving them ownership of their work. I want to help conduct a dialogue and problem solve. A good meeting is well planned and well timed. It is important to allow time at the start of any meeting to debrief and share. Agendas and adherence to time are essential. I need to be or designate a person who keeps the meeting moving along, allowing for discussion and opinions along the way. People should walk away feeling a sense of accomplishment and hopefully with something useful to them that they can implement or take care of in a short period of time. Within meetings, there will obviously be times when people have divergent points of view. A strategy we learned to help manage change and conflict as part of Standard 5.2 is the Focusing Four. The strategy consists of brainstorming ideas and telling the story, clarifying points of view and looking at pros and cons, advocating different positions and options and canvassing the crowd for clarification and evaluation. Using the Focusing Four helps focus on fairness, allowing all voices to be heard with input from more than one source. It allows the chance for paraphrasing to help all of those involve understand all options on the table. Things will undoubtedly need to change which inevitably leads to conflict, so as an administrator it is my charge to keep focus on productive strategies and outcomes. Leading people through multiple types of situations, including things as seemingly simple as meetings, is the foundation for an administrator.
A school administrator, reiterated in Standard 5.3, is a model for reflective practice and continuous growth. This includes leading the school through strengthening what we already do well and encouraging new avenues for development. We learned about Positive Behavior Instruction and Support. Much of it was simply best teaching practices, but it really put into perspective the importance of staying positive in all things. A positive attitude benefits us all in so many ways. It can lead to better communication, decision-making, influence and performance. To be two to four times more positive than negative has been shown to make a difference. I can influence kids and parents through a school-wide behavior program and staff through the use of group norms and the way I run meetings. I will always choose to help create and be a part of a positive climate and culture that values constant individual and organizational learning.
Educational leaders, school administrators in particular, are many things to many people. The adjectives that were most prevalent when describing administrators were: present, caring, communicative, dedicated and trusting. I know I can be all of these things to others, because I am all of these things in my personal life. Standard 5.4 states that school administrators must sustain both personal and professional motivation and responsibility. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s book The Power of Full Engagement contained an article regarding management of energy. I love the idea of managing my energy, not just my time and stress level. I enjoy the metaphor that life is a series of sprints rather than a marathon, as I have no desire to run over 26 miles consecutively! I have to keep myself mentally and physically fit in order to keep my energy up for myself and those that I work with. Laying out our daily schedules, making important changes and creating an ideal schedule was eye-opening. The authors see time rituals as healthy structure, and we must fit in things and people that are important to us. I see that I cannot let my time at the gym that makes me feel good for so many reasons take a back seat to paperwork or exhaustion. I also noticed that I need to be more conscious of my free time to maximize it and my energy. Loehr and Schwartz say that downtime is productive time, and I agree! Sleep really is the key for me, so I cannot let myself go without because it can make or break my day and week. I understand the importance of keeping my personal and professional life in balance. That is why it is so important to me to do a job that fits with who I am. That is a job in educational leadership.
After concluding the Tier 1’s fifth course, I look forward to reading Michael Fullan’s book What’s Worth Fighting For in the Principalship. Based on its summary, the book espouses making ethical decisions and exercising your leadership capacity in the principalship, exemplifying Standard 5. I am an ethical, reflective professional set to think forwardly and inspire others while maintaining balance in life. Working with all populations in a school, I am prepared to be the role model people expect of an educational leader.