Leading through uncertainty

There are so many questions about next school year still up in the air. Will your school adopt a hybrid model of partial in-person and partial virtual? Hybrid during the day or during the week or by groups of students? Will you decrease class sizes? Where will students all fit in your building? What happens if we face a budget cut?

As school leaders, there is no one among us who is immune from uncertainty come the fall. Even with a plan, how families and students will adapt and be able to recover lost learning still looms overhead. Positive, effective leadership helps us navigate crises, rebuild communities and forge ahead in times of ambiguity.

McKinsey’s leadership research identifies three imperatives to help leaders manage their own situation and also create a strong community of staff.

First, leaders need to rediscover and reemphasize their purpose. Don’t get so bogged down in the details of operational planning that you lose sight of your broader strategic goals for you school community. Are you working on rebuilding a positive culture, narrowing achievement gaps, or creating a more focused curricular program — whichever purpose drove you 6 months ago needs to come back into focus as you build your plan for next year. Wearing masks will not define the year – the school team achieving their purpose or not will.

Secondly, think about your broader stakeholders and create focused supports. In urban districts, many students and families have not been heard from since March, after school personnel were unclear on their roles, parent liaisons that became disconnected, and support staff had a difficult time jumping back in for support. Intentionally creating a plan for each of these groups that may have been more marginalized than others is critical to creating a supportive and high morale team. Take time out to do one-on-ones with teaching staff, support staff, and families – even 15 minute check-ins and planning times can motivate and increase a feeling of connectedness.

The third step is to prioritize building your resilience. Even with a strong purpose and a plan to serve your extended community, your progress may not be immediately apparent. You will need to marshal resolve in order to stay the course. This means taking care of yourselves – whether its a good night sleep, staying connecting with supportive mentors and colleagues or pursuing the space you need to gain perspective — at times like this you need to take a moment for yourself.

At Kred Rewards, our objective is to build self-motivated young people through positive incentives — this only happens when you have purposeful and motivated educators supporting students. A school leader is critical to creating a high morale staff and during re-entry in the fall that will be the primary objective of administrators. Though you will not have all the answers, focusing on the broader school goals can drive momentum. Ensuring everyone is engaged and no one is left out helps build a broader network of support for all staff. And finally, building your own resilience will strengthen your ability to lead with clarity and legitimacy coming out of this storm.

Reference: McKinsey’s “Positive Leadership in Uncertain Times” by Liz Hilton Segel (April 2020)

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