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Reflections on School Leadership Inspired by the GOATs

By: Maggie Hodge on February 5th, 2020

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Reflections on School Leadership Inspired by the GOATs

Innovative Leadership

In a world hyper-focused on influencers and celebrities, it is no surprise that professional athletes are often a top feature of our news or social media feeds. The news we hear about athletes may be rooted in their record-breaking accomplishments, their broader impact on our society or culture, controversial behavior, or even experiences with an unexpected setback or tragedy. And, whether you consider yourself an avid sports fan, follow a few particular sports, teams, or individual athletes, or only engage in sports conversations when they are forced upon you via workplace metaphors, undoubtedly the presence of some leading athletic competitors have at times entered your thoughts. 

Regardless of your knowledge, appreciation, or perception of elite athletes, as school leaders there is much we can learn from other professionals who have been leaders amongst their peers and achieved greatness in their craft. I wanted to explore some of the mindsets, habits, and commitments of a handful of professional athletes who are widely considered the GOAT (greatest of all time) in their particular sport, and how intentionally embodying some of these ideas can strengthen our impact as school leaders. As you read, I invite you to consider the lessons you can apply to your own role as leaders striving to impact the lives and futures of students, families, communities, and educators you serve.

On lifelong learning, as inspired tennis player Serena Williams

Best known for winning 23 major singles titles, the most of any male or female tennis player, Serena Williams famously said, “I think you should work on yourself until the day you die.” 

Reflections on the importance of lifelong learning to consider for your own leadership:

  • What is a concrete skill you are currently working to develop?
  • How can you spend 5-10 minutes working on this every day?
  • What opportunities do you have to learn from others and share your own learning journey with your team?

On showing appreciation, as inspired by soccer player Abby Wambach

Best known for scoring 184 international goals, the most of any male or female soccer player, Abby Wambach has said, “Her victory is your victory. Celebrate with her. Your victory is her victory. Point to her.”

Reflections on the importance of showing appreciation to consider for your own leadership:

  • What opportunities can you seize or create today in 5 minutes or less to tell someone “thanks,” “great job,” or “I appreciate you”?
  • What recurring systems and structures can you put into place to ensure you demonstrate authentic gratitude and appreciation for your staff on a regular basis?

Planning to be at the AASA National Conference on Education next week? Get in touch with our team to find a time to meet us!

We're also presenting the session, "The Power Behind Collaborative and Innovative District and School Leaders",  on the 14th, from 11:15 AM - 12:15 PM in room 6B, & Section 1 at the San Diego Convention Center.

On knowing yourself, as inspired by football player Tom Brady

Best known for his 6 Super Bowl Wins and 4 Super Bowl MVP designations, the most of any NFL player ever, Tom Brady once said, “I’m never going to be fast, and nobody will ever mistake me for being fast.”

Reflections on the importance of knowing yourself to consider for your own leadership:

  • What gaps or growth areas exist in your leadership?
  • Which staff members on your team are strong in these areas, and how can you leverage their leadership and/or learn from them?
  • How can you model vulnerability for your team by naming your gaps or challenges and sharing your plan to learn and grow?

On strong habits, as inspired by swimmer Michael Phelps

Best known for winning 28 Olympic medals, the most by anyone in any sport ever, Michael Phelps has said, “If you’re not serious about training, conditioning, and practice, you’re not serious about being your best.”

Reflections on the importance of strong habits to consider for your own leadership:

  • Which part of your day has the least impact on student achievement?
  • How can you change the way you spend your time and/or build habits and routines for this time to increase your effectiveness and impact as a leader?

As is a common reflection of elite athletes, we also know as leaders that our results are inevitably impacted by knowing our own strengths and gaps, and strategically enacting a tireless commitment to constant learning and improvement. Setbacks and failures are inevitable, but it’s how we respond, learn, and grow in the face of these obstacles that determines who we become and what we can achieve. These mindsets, habits, and commitments of champions are what it takes to become the GOAT – so, what will you do today to be the greatest leader you can be and leave a lasting impact on the students, families, communities, and educators you serve?


Education Elements Leadership Institutes 2020

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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