Last week, I was asked by Brian Aspinall to do an Ignite talk at the Canadian EdTech Leadership Summit in Toronto. Despite the fact that this would be my first Ignite talk, I didn’t struggle to come up with a topic. Several months ago, I wrote a blog post called No, We’re Not Toning it Down. This post was inspired by educators who all have something in common; they have all been told to tone it down, by their colleagues, because their actions were making some feel uncomfortable, perhaps even threatened.
For my Ignite talk, not only did I want to share the content of my post, I wanted to go one step further. I wanted share ideas for those in leadership positions to help empower these visionary teachers who may be feeling their passion diminished by those less willing to change, the resistors, so I asked a question : How do leaders create the conditions to empower visionary teachers?
Here are five ideas I shared in my Ignite. I hope that these ideas will inspire leaders, and in turn allow them to empower the visionary teachers in their schools.
Don’t Lower the Bar to Meet Diminished Expectations
Don’t allow those with lower expectations to set the precedent. In a school environment, administrators need to set the bar high, and pull the resistors, and those reluctant to change, up to a higher level of excellence. They need to capitalize on the skill set of their change agents, and leverage this capital to meet teachers where they are, and then take them on a journey.
Publicly Celebrate Achievements
Make some noise. When educators do incredible things, don’t keep it to yourself, don’t be quiet. Publicly celebrate their achievements. No one wants to be called out for not doing something. The more attention we draw to the achievements of others, the more pressure we apply on the resistors. Create a culture that makes the resistors feel like they are in the minority.
Connect to the Heart by Cultivating Relationships and Instilling Trust
As leaders, we need to invest time in cultivating relationships with exemplary educators. These individuals can sometimes feel deflated, and this provides the affirmation that they are on the right path, that we trust what they are doing, and that risk-taking is a valued commodity. In turn, we unleash their talents, empower them to try new things, and instill a level of confidence that will propel them to become leaders within their schools and at the system-level.
Lead by Example
Don’t be a hypocrite. If you’re going to ask others to do something that you are unwilling to do yourself, then don’t ask. How many times do we hear leaders telling others about the importance of risk-taking, and not model this in their own profession? Do yourself, what you ask of others, and make it visible.
Listen to Concerns
Listen, I mean really listen. Listen to the concerns of all stakeholders. You need to lend an empathetic ear to truly appreciate where people are coming from and what might be holding them back. Ensure that you sincerely offer your support to help them in their journey forward. This goes back to the importance of cultivating relationships.