Do you remember the classic P. D. Eastman book, “Are You My Mother?” In the book, a baby bird is hatched while his mother is searching for food. Realizing that his mother is gone, he sets out to find her. His first step out of the nest is a long fall, followed by a plop on the hard ground. He’s not able to fly (yet), so he begins his search on foot. He’s never seen his mother, and he knows nothing of the world, so he askes each charater he comes across if he, she, or it, is her. In the beginning of his journey, he walks right past his actuall mother and doesn’t even know it.
He asks a kitten, dog, a hen, a cow, a truck, a boat, a plane, and even a “snort” (which, as you may remember is a steam shovel). None of them are his mother. Just as he becomes tired, frustrated, and maybe even a bit frightened, the “snort” sets him down in a nest. As fate would have it, it’s the very nest in which he was hatched, and also the very same one that his mother eventually returns to with a loving smile and a fresh worm. This time, after his long serach, and a bit more experiential knowledge, he recognizes her. She’s a bird, he’s a bird, and she is…without a doubt, his mother!
Now mother’s don’t evolve in the way that leaderhsip philopophies can. By that I mean, your mother is your mother, and that’s that. However, the bird’s search for his missing mother gives inspires me to think about the evolution of my leadership philopophy, especially as a first year administrator. I’ve been thinking about leadership for several years now. My interest extends way back into grade school, where I explored my leadership self at school, in clubs, on sports teams, etc. Throught my leadership life, I’ve been blessed to come across, and learn from an incredible cast of characters. The amazing people I know and work with continue to help me understand myself, my role, and my values in deeper and more meaningful ways each day.
My leadership philosophy is grounded in core values that haven’t budged for as long as I can remember. Those values are the things that drive who I am personally and professionally. Among them are vision, hard work, optimism, communication, compassion, reflection, autonomy, faith, and more. When I see, or am able to excersise those core values in my daily life, I recognize them and feel a great sense of comfort. There are also uncomfortable times. As you might imagine, I regularly find myself in situations that I haven’t been in before.
In my role as a new administrator I am often facing challenges for the first time. When I do, I find it helpful to look to collegues, mentors, research, friends and family for input. I am on a journey similar to P. D. Eastman’s baby bird. In order to evolve, even though I do return to my core as a base of operations, I find it helpful to consistantly be asking, “are you my leadership philosophy?” Every time I feel like I’ve got it down…I realize very quickly that there’s plenty more to learn. Sometimes it starts with a long fall and a plop on the ground, then there’s the seemingly endless searching that leads to the relentless twists and turns. Those twists and turns are sometimes followed by exhaustion, frustration, and maybe even fear, but finally, in every cycle, I end up face to face with the something that I recognize and am comforted by, mixed with some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. While this never happens with my mother, it’s really cool when the bits and pieces I pick up on my journey add to that comfortable thing. I think that every leader should have a solid base that excemplifies his/her composit core values. However, I think it’s that drive to jump out of the proverbial nest, and that willingness to search that really pushes us to be our best for ourselves, and for those we serve! And by the way…thanks mom! I’m glad that you’re my mother.
A few thoughts/ideas you might consider:
– Jump out of the space you’re comfortable in…even if you fall and plop, because (and here’s the cheese) we do tend to walk before we can fly.
– Ask/look around. Whether or not you feel your leadership style/philosophy is entact and effective, seek to evolve.
– Consider that you have everything to learn from everyone you encounter, and from every situation you find yourself in. It’s amazing how people grow when they’re open to it!
– Embrace change, celebrate diversity, thrive on possibility, and extend yourself by truly accepting others. Every philisophical outlook you come across is not going to mesh with yours, but that doesn’t necissarily make it less valid. Consider that someone else’s thoughts might fit into your paradim. Ask, “are you my leadership philosophy?” Whenever you can.
A few articles you might read/people you might follow:
by Tom Whitford
by Jon Harper
by Starr Sackstein
by Ben Gilpin
by Tony Sinanis
Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.