The responsibility that comes with leadership has been a common theme for me over the past two weeks. At its most basic level, the amount of tasks I am required to do, know about and understand has increased. I am, simply by the nature of my role, responsible for overseeing and managing a portfolio of tasks that has overwhelmed me many times. I feel as if I am on a roller coaster of highs and lows, doubt and uncertainty, yet also excitement and challenge.
I have been challenged to keep my head when it feels like it cannot take any more information. I have learnt that time management is a skill I am yet to master. The challenge of working smarter and not harder is one I am facing head-on. I can see how easy it is for one in my position to simply role model working harder without questioning whether that is right. To just get in and do it has been a characteristic I have valued in myself. However, I am learning that this is not necessarily a skill you need in a leader. Delegating tasks, allocating time to important tasks, shutting the door to get things done and asking the right questions are all strategies I will be employing regularly. Otherwise, I am not role modelling what I expect in others.
The responsibility of serving others sits well with me. However, The emotional component of it has not been easy this week. I am, to quote a good friend, an “emotional sponge”. I can very easily take on board the feelings and problems of others. This same good friend gave me a great metaphor to take with me into this next week. She told me I need to put on my metaphorical raincoat, it can get as wet and messy as it needs to, and then each day I need to take it back off again. I will try it and see how it goes. It is all too easy to slip into the role of fixer and to be everywhere for everybody. However, this effectively leads to the disempowerment of my colleagues and creates a cycle of dependency, rather than initiative and problem solving. The delicate balance between serving others to their detriment and serving others to develop them, is a fine one.
I was reminded of this by my Principal last Thursday when he mentioned that he was trying very hard not to micro-manage. This hit home to me as I have been guilty of this in the past. My perfectionist tendencies and need for control have too often meant that I need to know what is happening and feel that I must be over all components. This is simply not possible now. There are not enough hours in one day. Already I am seeing how often I am putting tasks to the side as I prioritise, I have a list that will be effectively ongoing and I need to learn to live with that. Easier said than done! Reflecting on the problems of micro-managing led me to think about how vital it is to step back and distribute the leadership amongst others. I can already see in some small pockets of my institution, people are ready and willing to assume this. That is true empowerment and true service leadership – letting others shine.
As I get better at managing this blog, I will share some links. I was inspired by the idea of distributed leadership as it is a model I am looking to implement as part of our College Performance Development Program. I will add this here as my tech know-how improves.