Responding to COVID-19 – as a central office Administrator – has been one of the most rewarding, yet, introspective experiences of my career. As a relatively new CTE Coordinator, leading remotely – through ambiguous times – has illustrated my leadership equity to this point, and tested my ability to continue to lead my team. Over the past few months, I have had to manage several projects, many of which are unprecedented, to ensure teaching, learning, and managerial processes continue to move forward. All this work has been completed remotely, with core components of traditional processes removed.
As I have embarked on the ACTE New Fellows program, I have been fortunate to have this structured opportunity, and community of colleagues at my side. Specifically, the text The Leadership Handbook: 26 Critical Lessons Every Leader Needs, has been a timely read; one that has served as a barometer for where I am at this point, and how I can improve my situation. Many of the lessons in the book illustrate a comment my father shared with me as a kid. Players win, coaches lose. He would go on to inform me that a competitive event is largely depicting the strength of the team up to that point; specifically, how they prepared and collaborated up to that point. As I have – and continue to – assess the posture of my team, I am reminded that this experience is an authentic reflection of many of the lessons John Maxwell presents in his book.
For example, Chapter 9, To See How the Leader is Doing, Look at the People, has allowed me to better understand the impact I’m having on building, developing, and leading my team. One of the most salient points of the chapter was around the question, are the people following? Much of what was discussed, was if individuals are genuinely following a leader for their leadership traits, and not simply for the sake of positional power. Central to this response, was trust and loyalty. I have found that COVID-19 illustrated where people actually stood, in regard to following their leaders of their respective offices.
I have had to ask many individuals to modify our existing curriculum – nearly 300 courses – to ensure continuity of learning occurs for our students. There was a small stipend, yet weeks of work to ensure that equitable resources were provided to our teachers and students. Every course had to have a digital and print version, to allow other teachers to push through our learning management system, and students without devices had a copy that we could mail to them. Given this ask, it was quickly apparent, which teachers were true followers of our work, and which were merely leading to organizational structures and positional power. Many of our teachers expressed how they felt valued up to that point and respected the work of our office. They took the call that we asked, recognizing we could not complete the work ourselves, and regardless of pay or reimbursement, gave their time to help the office and team. Consequently, it was a correlation of the relationships we built to that point.
As the weeks went on, trust and loyalty – and ongoing transparency – helped sustain our followers to move forward. At the end of the day, leading our teams remotely, was merely a showcase of the work we had done to the point. As I continue to lead during this time, I continue to reflect and engage with resources such as the Leadership Handbook, and lean in on my colleagues for what is working, and what I need to improve upon.