Developing Strategic, Effective Leadership: The Key Steps

When school principals need to handle anxiety and frustration related to their leadership responsibilities, it can be challenging if they lack the necessary skills. This is especially important to address when implementing schoolwide initiatives, as the staff’s anxiety tends to increase when the principal and others are not equipped with the required strengths.

Patrick Lencioni’s latest book, The 6 Types of Working Genius, offers a model that helps principals better understand and manage their anxiety and frustration.

Implementing the Model for School Leaders

When school leaders take on any type of initiative, such as a curriculum revision or a change in student management programming, they go through three stages of work:

  1. Contemplating the idea
  2. Activating the idea
  3. Implementing the idea

Experienced principals know that each stage requires different skills, and it can be frustrating when they realize they lack those skills.

In Lencioni’s words, “We all have areas where we thrive, areas where we struggle, and areas that fall somewhere in between.” To help leaders understand the necessary skills for moving initiatives from idea to implementation, Lencioni identifies six specific types of strengths that are required. These strengths can be categorized as genius, competence, or frustration level.

At the genius level, people find their work joyful and rewarding. At the competence level, work is tolerable and completed satisfactorily. However, at the frustration level, work becomes draining and individuals struggle to complete tasks. If these areas of frustration are not addressed, people may experience burnout. Most individuals have genius-level gifts in one or two areas, competence in two areas, and frustration in two areas. The six areas are:

  • Wonder – the ability to analyze school problems and strategize solutions
  • Invention – creative thinking that leads to fresh and original ideas
  • Discernment – the judgment and intuition to assess situations and provide effective feedback
  • Galvanizing – the skill of inspiring and motivating others to pursue worthwhile endeavors
  • Enablement – the ability to anticipate and meet the needs of others, empowering them
  • Tenacity – the drive and determination to overcome obstacles and complete tasks

So, what can principals learn from Lencioni’s model? If you find yourself consumed by work responsibilities that require skills you lack, you might not be fully satisfied with your role as a principal. This doesn’t mean you’re failing, but rather that you’re exhausting yourself by taking on work that others might enjoy. Consider delegating tasks related to your areas of frustration to someone on your leadership team who excels in those areas.

Using the Model with Your Leadership Team

If you conduct a book study on Lencioni’s working genius framework with your leadership team, you can collectively identify each person’s strengths and areas of frustration. This discussion can help individuals break free from the traps they find themselves in and lead to a more effective distribution of responsibilities based on each team member’s unique gifts.

Here’s an example of how the model can be applied in a school setting:

  • If you want to reduce office referrals for student behavior and classroom management, identify staff members who excel at analyzing the status quo and suggesting plans for improvement (wonder geniuses)
  • Identify those who think outside the box and come up with innovative ideas (inventive geniuses)
  • Find individuals who are skilled at asking questions that keep initiatives moving forward (discernment geniuses)
  • Look for someone who can motivate and inspire others to work hard toward goals (galvanizers)
  • Identify individuals who excel at meeting the needs of others and providing support and encouragement (enablers)
  • Lastly, find those who are tenacious and determined to see the vision through to completion (tenacity)

Most likely, you have staff members who possess the skills needed in each area. Remember, accomplishing work goals requires individuals who can perform at a genius level in all six areas. Principals can’t do everything alone.

If paperwork, scheduling, or other tasks increasingly frustrate you, consider delegating those responsibilities to another member of your leadership team who would be excited and skilled at completing them. By doing so, you can focus on your areas of strength and rediscover joy in your work. Effective leadership involves strategic delegation and sharing of responsibility.

That’s what makes a leader truly strategic and effective.

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