— "Leadership is a scary thing. There are many people that want to be matadors, only to find themselves in the ring with 2000 pounds of bull bearing down on them, and then discover that what they really wanted was to wear tight pants and hear the crowd roar"- Steve Farber, Extreme Leadership
Yesterday, I had the good fortune to work with Principals from around British Columbia on a professional development project for the British Columbia Principals' and Vice Principals' Association. One of my team members introduced me to this quote from Steve Farber, and it really struck home with me in terms of leadership and being a Principal.
At this time of the year, administrators everywhere are being confronted with major decisions that will affect their students, teachers, schools, and communities. Most of us have projected our enrollment for the fall. Most of us have had our students select their courses for next year. Many of us received our budget allocations for September. And now the difficult choices begin. What programs can we offer? Do we have to run split classes? Which classes do we have to cancel? How will we do the same things next year as we do this year? Do we have enough staffing so that everyone has a job? Do we have to surplus people, or worse, lay people off?
It is times like these when it can be incredibly challenging to be a Principal. Sometimes the decisions you make, regardless of whether they are the necessary or only thing to do, can be highly controversial. Students can be upset when a course doesn't run because of low enrollment. Parents can be disappointed when a program that they thought would be ideal for their child can no longer be continued. Teachers can feel, angry, de-valued and hurt when their courses don't run, or they are surplussed or laid off. It is understandable that these people feel this way. It is really difficult. Sometimes it does feel as though the 2000 pound bull is bearing down on you.
In times like this, I realize that each day as Principals, we have the opportunity to make many decisions that can positively impact our school. Sometimes, we can be heroes. We can help a student out with a scholarship by writing a letter of reference. We can make a teacher's day by letting them know that their lesson really hit the mark with their students today, or that their new laptop is in. We can work with parents and help them through a difficult situation with transcripts and entrance to university. We can be there when one of our teams wins a provincial banner, or stand and applaud with pride at the end of our spring drama productions. To paraphrase the quote, there are many moments when it may feel like it might feel pretty nice to be standing in front of the crowd like the Matador.
But with other decisions that we make, we are not heroes. We are unpopular. We are the butt of derogatory comments. We are the "villian", we are "inconsiderate", we are "heartless'. We are directly in the sights of the 2000 pound bull that is bearing down on each of us, and the pants feel way too tight.
But each of us needs to remember that being an administrator is not about the big crowds and the tight pants. We cannot lose sight of the fact that our decisions can affect peoples' lives and livelihoods. When we are confronted with these sorts of decisions, we owe it to our schools to carefully think about how our choices will impact students and their learning, teachers and their classes, and in some cases, individuals and their careers.
At this very pressurized time of the year, we need to use the best information that is available to us at the time to make decisions. We have to consider the short- and long- term ramifications. We have to consider each of the points of view of the people involved. And once we make these choices, we have to make sure that we take as much time as is necessary to have those difficult conversations with the people who are affected in a manner that is both honest and sensitive to their personal situation.
And we need to be aware that if we want to be like the Matador, with a hankering for big crowds and tight pants, we may in fact just end up like this...(and THAT'S no bull...)