Leadership plays an important role in education. The way I define leadership is one's ability to establish a following among a group of individuals. So, I'd like to dissect that a bit. Obviously, in order to begin you must know yourself and your team. Without this fundamental principle you won't be able to play off strengths and weaknesses to create evidences of success. If you spend some time around me, you will hear the phrase "evidence of success". In terms of leadership, I feel it is paramount to create an atmosphere that bleeds constant improvement. I remember watching a Leadercast session last year where Andy Stanley said, "clarity trumps integrity". Although both are non-negotiable, it is interesting to see the value of clarity. Constant improvement cannot happen without clarity; aspects of clarity get into the collaboration and communication of a leader. In a book that I am reading, Digital Leadership by Eric Sheninger, the author talks about branding. I think he is right when he says, "Does leadership brand impact school culture? You’ve created your relational brand. Connect it to school improvement. Communicate brand promise for improving your school’s culture, achievement, and resourcing." A clear brand as a leader builds rapport and confidence in both you and the people you lead. Branding today involves social media. My presence on social media really comes in multiple forms, but one identity: showmerob.
I grew up in Missouri - the "Show-Me" state; therefore, the identity showmerob. Leaving for the Air Force straight out of high school, I had many opportunities to travel. Married at 19 and having 3 kids by the age of 26, I got experience early as a leader in my role as a parent. In the military (I don't let these pictures get out often) I got the opportunity to be in a cohort that received training on Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Principled Centered Leadership. One of the main points I learned from that experience was that nothing is ever finished, you have to be in constant reflection as a leader and ready for change. Leaving the military for education, I was fortunate to be influenced by several great examples of leadership. I am going to name a couple of individuals that have influenced and mentored my journey so far:
Of my many mentors, one person stands out. This year will be my 12th year working for Mark Evans. Mark brings so much to the table as far as leadership. He understands that a leader develops the talent around himself. One thing that defines Mark is his desire to do what's best for students; this is his brand and if you spend even five minutes with him, you will hear this phrase. Mark is approachable, and able to hold a conversation with any staff member without intimidating them. He has transformed any district he has been in. By far, there is no one that has taught me more about leadership than he. What we have done in Omaha Public Schools is a direct reflection of the leadership he has brought.
Digital Leadership in Education
In education, when leaders get it right, it's like catching lightning in a bottle. It becomes one of the most treasured elements to transform the staff's experience from one that drains and discourages, to one that energizes and empowers. I don't like the term digital leadership; it should be just leadership. Just like e-learning, today's investment in technology is implied, it's just learning. I am going to reference the Future Ready Framework now, as it really gives a great insight on the needs of leadership for students to thrive in the 21st Century. I have the distinct pleasure of being a part of a great team of educators at the national level that focuses on Future Ready in the IT Strand. The framework provides a road map in different gears or domains that support a district's digital transformation. The following is straight from the Future Ready Framework:
The elements that comprise the Collaborative Leadership Gear are:
No matter your leadership position, if you are in education, you should check out the Future Ready Framework.
Where Do You Start...
There is no perfect plan to become a leader. This has been my experience and how I have grown as a professional and hopefully a purposeful leader. Here are some things I would do if I had to start over:
I am fortunate to have an amazing team here in Omaha Public Schools. They accept my ideas, no matter how crazy they are sometimes. Leadership comes from influence, and influence can come from anyone at any level and in any role. Being open and authentic, using empathy, and helping to lift others up creates the circle of influence you have.