School Administrator Sets a Strong Leadership Example

Having the role of a division director can be challenging when bridging the gap between policymakers and faculty members. The impact of decisions differs for teachers and administrators. While setting policies is vital, living out those decisions alongside teachers presents a different set of challenges. 

When our school implemented the Wellington Engagement Index (WEI), a tool to gauge student engagement, I faced a dilemma. This tool allows students to provide feedback by placing a dot on a digital grid to indicate their level of challenge and enjoyment in the learning process.

As powerful as the tool may be, it requires acknowledging the vulnerability of asking teachers to seek feedback from students. Teaching is personal and subjective, making feedback from students a revealing experience.

Faced with a faculty feeling exposed, I took initiative. I convened a meeting to develop a tool inspired by the WEI to assess administrators’ performance, giving teachers the opportunity to provide feedback in return. 

Through this process, I discovered the importance of leading with vulnerability. 

Creating a Leadership Evaluation Instrument

We outlined the new assessment tool to evaluate competence and supportiveness. Competence includes effective communication, strong interpersonal skills, leading learning initiatives, a clear vision, and the ability to realize that vision. 

Supportiveness involves fostering faculty growth, treating faculty as professionals, supporting them in conflicts, endorsing their decisions on student behavior, nurturing a positive school atmosphere, and being open to discussions. 

This effort led to the creation of the “Scott-Lasso Matrix,” symbolizing competence and supportiveness with characters from The Office and Ted Lasso. Teachers used this tool to provide feedback based on their observations.

But this was just the beginning.

Utilizing Developmental Leadership Data

The WEI collects quantitative data symbols, but to derive meaning, teachers analyze them, form hypotheses, and engage students for qualitative feedback. The dots gain significance through detailed interactions and reflections. 

This process demands vulnerability. Collecting feedback is one aspect; sharing it with students and encouraging their input is a different challenge.

Fortunately, by modeling the process after teachers completed the WEI, I demonstrated the next steps. I shared my data and hypotheses with teachers, encouraging them to reciprocate with their students.

Over time, teachers displayed their data to students, engaging in discussions and focus groups to delve deeper into their feedback. The trust and transparency in these interactions facilitated growth and development.

The culmination of this journey was achieved when the faculty and I embraced vulnerability, using feedback for ongoing improvement.

Fostering an Environment of Openness

These experiences highlighted the need to embrace vulnerability. Here are strategies to nurture transparency in leadership and professional growth:

Remember, “a fish rots from the head down.” Leadership is about continuous learning, as emphasized by James Kouzes and Barry Posner. Creating a culture where feedback is not just accepted but expected is essential. Leaders must be open to criticism and growth to build trust and collaboration within the organization. Encouraging feedback and being receptive to it fosters a culture of improvement and development.

Define your understanding of vulnerability. Vulnerability is a gateway to innovation and change, as Brené Brown suggests. It is not about weakness but about confidence in leadership. Defining vulnerability and incorporating it into leadership practices can create a safe environment for exploration and creativity.

Embrace formative feedback. Utilizing formative tools like the WEI for growth rather than evaluation promotes a culture of learning and improvement. Leaders should encourage open dialogue and support for faculty development, creating a supportive and nurturing environment for growth.

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