Today’s guest post is by Dr. Neil Gupta, an extraordinary secondary director of education in Worthington, Ohio.
I just transitioned to a new position in a new school district a little more than two months ago. As I meet people asking me how I like my new position, I tell them this story:
Sometime in the second week of my new position, I set up a meeting with my direct report Chief Academic Officer, Jennifer Wene. I walked in to her office stating that I had 10 questions. With each question, she not only explained her question, but the reasoning and belief behind the decision or approach to look further. After each question, her next answer was consistent with the same beliefs and approach as her previous answer. She not only answered the question, but took the time to explain the premise behind each decision or thought. After the fifth question, I looked at the last five questions. After rereading each of the final five questions, I stood up to leave. Mrs. Wene asked where I was going, as we did not get through all of the questions. I responded, “Because you explained your answers with depth, you provided context in your reasoning, and stayed consistent in your approach and the value system, I can anticipate how you would address my other questions.”
In the movie Wizard of Oz, everyone was tricked by the Wizard. No one knew that behind the smoke and mirrors was an ordinary person. People trembled at the sight and words of the great and mysterious Wizard. The Wizard set up a persona for not being approachable. Not only did he hide, but he struck fear in the people who approached him. And, his “wisdom” was shrouded in big words and hoops to jump to get answers.
My experience with the District Superintendent, Dr. Trent Bowers, has been the similar as with Mrs. Wene, as well as other leaders in the district. A culture in the district has been built in having a clear sense of the organization and embedding the beliefs in decisions and vision for the future.
Real leaders do not create an environment like the Wizard that establishes a place of fear or confusion on expectations and ideas. Leaders like Mrs. Wene and Dr. Bowers create a culture that is open and approachable. Although it took them time to explain the rationale behind the first few questions at the beginning, their consistency and the evidence of values behind their recommendations and ideas create a place to understand and anticipate future questions and issues.
When leaders invest the time purposefully and in advance to communicate their beliefs and stay consistent in how they lead, it not only provides clarity for future decisions, but it builds confidence among the others. It is stirs a confidence to anticipate and act in line with the values from the leadership. And, in modeling this behavior, it fosters the same ability to explain the motives and vision with others throughout the organization.
As a leader, do you know what you believe and can share it? Do you take the time to explain decisions clearly and thoughtfully? Are you consistent in your motives or attitudes in order to allow others to anticipate and see the vision? If so, thank you for pulling open the curtain!
Tags: Approachability, beliefs, Confidence, organizational leadership, Vision