People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
The staff in Pleasantdale just spent two days gathered for our annual school year kick-off. During these two days, teachers planned, received professional development, and readied their classrooms for the year. Our administrative team took this time to motivate and excite our teachers for the year ahead. I took this opportunity to share with the staff the driving force behind my leadership in hopes that it would help them to better understand our direction and what influences my decisions.
Over the course of the past several years, I have used a tool developed by Simon Sinek called the Golden Circle to help me clarify my leadership mission. Simon has found that most organizations and individuals know WHAT they do and may even know HOW they do it, but very few people or organizations know WHY they do what they do. And the WHY is the most important part. This is why I focused on my WHY during my opening remarks to staff.
Why do I do what I do?
To create opportunities that allow individuals to make an impact on others.
As we gain experience and wisdom, our WHY may evolve, but it is always it remains a high level goal that takes a lifetime to achieve. The focus of my leadership has always been to build capacity in those around me so they may become great leaders. I know that the greatest leaders pay it forward and strive to make their organizations better by creating a culture of leadership.
A good WHY needs some HOWS to support it. Here are the HOWS I have drafted.
- Focus on others – The best leaders know the goal is the make more and better leaders. This is why my first, and most important HOW is to focus on the development of individuals within our organization.
- Push the limits – This comes from being knocked down and getting back up again. Being told you can’t. Can’t Statements drive me to work harder to succeed and make a difference. “Dave, you can’t have a contract negotiation that isn’t contentious.” This can’t statement drove me to think flexibly, seeking divergent paths that allowed for new solutions to old problems.
- Make it fun – The greatest leaders are humble. They are able to laugh at themselves. They are also those who know their weaknesses and seek out ways to improve those weaknesses. Leaders understand that when our work is enjoyable we accomplish more. We spend so much time doing this important work; in order for us to sustain it, we simply need to make it fun.
- Be curious – In school, I was always the kid who asked way too many questions. In fact, in third grade I was given three “question cards” that needed to sustain me throughout the day. Curiosity is a desire to better understand through questioning. Additionally, the Latin root of curious is curiosus which means careful. Leaders need to be careful as we make decisions that impact so many people, and that is an added benefit of being curious simply because it allows us to make informed decisions.
- Think strategically – I define strategic thinking as the ability to plan with the end in mind. If we have a vision of the future, we can make decisions that allow us to make that vision a reality. Leaders need to be open to the evolution of a vision, but by starting with the end in mind, and making plans to achieve that vision, we stay on a consistent path to greatness.
As we begin the 2016-17 school year, I look forward to clarifying our district’s values and beliefs through our Future Planning process. This community-based process will allow us to use these shared beliefs to chart a new direction for our district. These are exciting times in Pleasantdale, and I hope to further my WHY and help cultivate leadership in others.