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Reflecting on Your Leadership Through a Year of Unexpected Firsts

By: Maggie Hodge on January 4th, 2021

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Reflecting on Your Leadership Through a Year of Unexpected Firsts

Innovative Leadership

2020 was, among many things, a year of firsts. The first time a non-English language movie, Parasite, won Best Picture at the Oscars. The first time millions of people stopped their daily commute and set up a home office, classroom, or waited to resume their jobs and typical routines. The first Black Vice President, the first Asian-American Vice President, and the first female Vice President elected in the United States – Senator Kamala Harris. The first time for many people homeschooling their children, and for children to be attending school virtually. The first time a female athlete scored in a Power 5 Conference game in NCAA football (Sarah Fuller, Vanderbilt), the first female NFL coach to make it to the Superbowl (Katie Sowers, 49ers), and the first female General Manager appointed in the MLB (Kim Ng, Marlins). The first time Hallmark released a holiday movie with an LGBTQ storyline, The Christmas House. The first time one of the most commonly uttered phrases of the year was, “You’re on mute.” And, of course, the first time for most people to live through a global pandemic and navigate an unprecedented amount of disruption and change. 

While 2020 was a year of many firsts, there are a few things that we can count on to persist in 2021 and beyond. We can expect that unexpected change is a constant. We can expect that genuine connection is a basic human need. And we can expect that innovative, empathetic, and inclusive leaders are essential in guiding teams and individuals through whatever challenges and opportunities the future holds.

At Education Elements, we believe there are six foundational competencies that all Innovative Leaders must hold to navigate the demands of today and the future. As you look back at the past year and look forward to the year ahead, we invite individuals and teams of leaders to reflect on their leadership from their own perspective, as well as connect with those you support to gain feedback and insight about the impact of your leadership on their work and lives. 

Innovative Leadership Development for School Districts: The complete guide to developing more innovative educational leaders.

Know Yourself

Understand how personal experiences, values, and strengths impact leadership philosophy, practices, and interactions

  • Ask Yourself: 
    • What did you learn about yourself as a leader this past year? 
    • Which moments felt the most difficult?  Which are you most proud of?
  • Ask Others: 
    • What do you think are my superpowers as a leader?
    • What blind spots do I have as a leader that I need to be aware of?

Nurture Trust

Build deep relationships and create a psychologically safe environment that encourages vulnerability, risk-taking, and feedback 

  • Ask Yourself:
    • Which of your relationships (with individuals or groups of stakeholders) are the strongest? How do you know?
    • Which of your relationships (with individuals or groups of stakeholders) feel challenging? Why might that be?
  • Ask Others:
    • What attributes and actions do you believe are important for leaders to demonstrate to build trust with people they support?
    • How would you describe the current state of psychological safety in our (team, school, district, with certain stakeholders, etc.)?

Cultivate Curiosity

Seek out and intentionally model ways for self and others to constantly ask questions, learn, and share

  • Ask Yourself:
    • List all of the ways you have intentionally sought new learnings and perspectives as a commitment to constant growth.
    • When and how have you shared ideas, successes and pitfalls with people you support? 
  • Ask Others:
    • When have you felt the most comfortable or supported to learn new things and innovate your practice?
    • What additional opportunities might we have to model and support learning and sharing within our (team, school, district, with certain stakeholders, etc.)?

Communicate Effectively

Create and intentionally share clear and compelling messages using a variety of strategies

  • Ask Yourself:
    • With which individuals or groups of stakeholders do you consistently communicate effectively? If you asked these stakeholders what makes this communication effective, what strategies or actions would they point to?
    • With which individuals or groups of stakeholders do you have the greatest need for improved communication? How can you collaborate with these stakeholders to build communications strategies that meet their needs?
  • Ask Others:
    • Describe a situation in which you’ve felt my communication has been strong. What was the impact?
    • Describe a situation in which my communication left something to be desired. What was the impact? What might I have done differently? 

Listen Deeply

Ask questions and listen to learn, empathize, reflect, and illuminate insights

  • Ask Yourself:
    • For which topics or situations do people come to you for advice? For which topics or situations do you typically not have people seeking your ear? Why might this be?
    • What assumptions are you operating with about individuals or groups of stakeholders you support and the work to be done that may not be shared by others?
  • Ask Others:
    • How do you know when a leader is genuinely listening deeply to the people they support?
    • Which voices are not being sought or fully heard by leaders in our (team, school, district, with certain stakeholders, etc.)?

Decide Deliberately

Make responsive decisions guided by purpose, priorities, data, and experiences 

  • Ask Yourself: 
    • Make a list of all of the decisions you’ve made in the last month. Reflect on:
      • When have you felt successful and energized by your decision making? Why?
      • When have you felt stuck or less confident in your decision making? Why?
  • Ask Others:
    • Describe your perspective on how decisions our made in our (team, school, district, with certain stakeholders, etc.).
    • What elements of a leader’s decision making process are most important to you?

Want to learn more about Innovative Leadership? Check out the Innovative Leadership Competencies for District Leaders, School Leaders, Teacher Leaders, and Coaches

About Maggie Hodge

Maggie Hodge is a Senior Design Principal on the Design and Implementation Team. After working as a student teacher in college, she began her career in education as a Pre-K and Kindergarten teacher in New Orleans public schools. In addition to her role as a teacher, Maggie has served as an RTI chair, grade level leader, school leader, and district level leader in traditional public schools and charter schools in San Francisco, New Orleans, and Austin. Maggie holds an M.Ed in Administration and Supervision, and pursues educational equity by focusing on school leader development, instructional coaching best practices, new teacher development, and innovative classroom design. In her spare time Maggie can be found in the yoga or spin studio, paddle boarding, or spending time with loved ones and her dog, Gizmo.

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