With schools shut down due to the Coronavirus, I found myself with some extra free time on my hands. I decided to catch up on some reading.
Instead of looking for a new book, however, I chose to re-read the one book that had the greatest impact on me as a leader.
That book is Simon Sinek’s, Leaders Eat Last.
I have the audiobook version that I have listened to four times already – yes, four times. I just ordered the paperback version, so I can go back and underline, highlight and put stars next to quotes I want to remember.
Every time I meet a new or soon-to-be school administrator, I always recommend that they read Simon’s book.
Leaders Eat Last is the one book that helped to create my leadership philosophy.
Now in the middle of my 8th year of school leadership, I have seen how having a clear leadership philosophy is so important to an organization’s success.
I wonder how many of our school leaders would answer the question, “What is your leadership philosophy?”
How would you answer that question?
It has become clear to me, after eight years of getting to know other administrators and their staff, that although some leaders are clear as to their philosophy, many are just “doing the best they can,” or if they have a philosophy, it’s not based on research, but more on experience or “just following the practices of the person who had this job before me.”
Does that make sense?
That is why I am always recommending Simon’s book. It provides the reader solid research to help leaders either change or create their leadership philosophy.
So Sam, how would you answer the question, “What is your leadership philosophy?”
I’m glad you asked.
My leadership philosophy is crystal clear:
Take care of your people.
This is the message that Simon’s book repeats over and over again. The organizations that are the most successful are those whose leaders have adopted this philosophy – Take care of your people.
Your people need to feel that you are taking care of them. If not, they’ll be forced to take care of themselves, and their focus will shift away from taking care of the customers, clients, or in education – the kids.
Your people need to know that you have their back, and that you value them not only as employees, but as people.
I recently heard of a principal who has told her staff that because her time is very valuable, if they wanted to speak with her, they had to make an appointment.
How does that show that she is caring for her people? She is sending the message that the concerns of her staff are not as valuable as her own time.
Another principal goes out of her way to tout his accomplishments to visitors from the District, without acknowledging the work of the teachers and staff. His actions demonstrate a desire to take care of his own personal career growth instead of showing gratitude to his own staff. Yes, that does happen, and it’s sad.
Your people’s value must be greater than the value of your own personal desires or goals, and even more valuable than the needs and requests of your superiors. This last piece is so important.
In education, the District is always trying to improve their numbers, and often times, to do this, they need the teachers to add one more thing to their already-full plate. Some principals will deliver this news to their teachers with a, “Sorry, there’s nothing I can do, so just get it done” attitude. Other principals will advocate for their teachers with the District or at least provide teachers with additional support to make the extra workload easier.
The bottom line is that you have been given the awesome responsibility to take care of the people you lead. Their well-being needs to be your primary concern, because without them, you will not be able to move your school or organization forward.
This responsibility isn’t just for principals or CEOs. If you are a leader of any team, whether it’s a department or the custodial crew, as their leader, it is important that your leadership philosophy is clear and supported by research.
That is why Leaders Eat Last will always be the book that I recommend to new and soon-to-be leaders. It helped me create my Leadership Philosophy – Take care of your people.
This clarity makes decision making so much easier, and as a side benefit, my people work happier and harder.
If you are a leader or want to be one, I enthusiastically recommend Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last. It will change your life, and more importantly, the lives of your people.
Until next time, here’s to your journey toward School Administration Mastery!
P.S. No, I’m not being compensated by Simon Sinek or his publisher to write this article. I just felt that other leaders and soon-to-be leaders would appreciate some help in becoming more successful in their organizations. However, if you read this Simon, I hope to meet you someday, shake your hand (or bump elbows), and thank you in person.