Superhero or School Leader?

“With great power comes great responsibility. Peter Parker, also know as Spider-Man, comes to this realization after a spider bites him and he is transformed into a superhero with exceptional powers, including the ability to sense impending danger”.  This is the first sentence of the introduction of Leading with Intention, a book that I co-authored withJeanne Spiller.  No, it is not a book about superheroes… well maybe it is… because it is for school leaders.

Jeanne and I know that like, Spider-Man, school leaders are faced with challenging, demanding, important work every day as a school leader. spider-man-1099203We wanted to write a book to help our school leaders become better at sharing this power and responsibility. We wanted to create opportunities for school leaders to think about how to collaborate more effectively and be student-centered, data-driven, focus on instruction, be well organized and great communicators! All without superpowers!!

We say in our introduction, that we wish that we could give you Spidey-senses or superhuman strength, but instead we settled for offering insights in approaching your work as a school leader. We set up the book to do what Uncle Ben did for Peter Parker, to provide advice, support, good examples and opportunities for reflection.

The number eight… have you ever though about it when it is turned on its side?  It is the symbol for infinity. As a school leader, you have infinite choices to make every day; how to use your time, what to focus on, who to talk to, and where to be. And the figure eight is made of two equal parts, creating balance.  So, Jeanne and I used the number eight throughout the book as our point of reference. We provided eight themes/chapters for your consideration.  At the end of each chapter, there is an opportunity to reflect on what you would do with eight minutes, eight weeks, eight months to improve your practice.

This book is about moving, from focusing on you, personally, as the leader, to intentional practices to guide your work and we want you to leave each chapter suggesting five leadership actions that you will commit to doing. We describe what great leaders do and what we want you to avoid. We both have learned a great deal from our mistakes (still do) and we have learned to celebrate as we have grown as leaders.

The funniest part of our journey together in writing this book is how we met and started.   We were assigned a district contract in California, together as consultants, and on day one we met up for breakfast to meet and share our plans for the day. Before you knew it, this girl from Eastern Canada and Jeanne from Chicago, discovered our mutual love of hockey and the Chicago Blackhawks. (It is a long story but we actually  spontaneously bought tickets to go to a game in San Jose that very night…only to find out it was too far away and we couldn’t get there on time after work!).  As we continued to work together that week, we soon realized that we also mutually loved developing leadership skills in others and we knew that we were missing a resource that we could take with us to help leaders sit and really reflect on their needs.  We wanted something that didn’t have to be read from cover to cover but could be used as needed.  We agreed that we didn’t have what we were describing, yet… so we wrote it.

To say that we had fun writing the book would be an understatement. We met wherever we could whenever we could. We laughed and worked hard.  We became best friends. I am not sure that is what happens with all co-authors but it was my only experience and I am glad that this is how it turned out. This was my first book and I struggled through some days. Writing was a challenge and a blessing. I learned so much from our publishers and editors at Solution Tree Press and Jeanne was a great cheerleader having co-authored other books.

And so, beginning next Saturday, for the next eight weeks, this blog will be about one of our eight chapters/themes. I want to share some of our thinking and help you reflect on the end of this school year and/or begin planning for the next one!  The book was published in late 2018 and we are so excited when we get feedback. Mostly, the feedback that we love is when a leader actually uses some of the reflection templates and exercises to help them think about their next steps.  In fact, when someone sends us a picture of  our book all marked up with the exercises filled in we are thrilled! That is a true celebration for us!

Thanks for reading and thinking along with me.  Embrace your strengths and your impact on others. You have an infinite number of ways to be you. Follow Jeanne at @jeeneemarie and you can follow me here or at @power58karen.  Our book is available through Solution Tree at https://www.solutiontree.com/leading-with-intention.html. See you next Saturday!

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