My friends Joe Mazza and Tony Sinanis often talk about the impact of being the lead learner in a building.  They live this title to the fullest extent.  I hold them both in such high regard, because they are truly leading the learning in their area.  If we are going to lead learning organizations, we need to lead the learning as adults.  We need to consistently push ourselves to learn new things and model for our staff the importance of continuous professional growth.  
Having said that, being the Lead Learner should also encompass Learning to Lead.  At a very young age I was told that I had “leadership ability”.  To this day I don’t really know what that means, but I knew it gave me confidence to get in front of a group of people, provide some energy and enthusiasm, and attempt to get people headed in a similar direction.  The confidence that was instilled was great, but I think it also had a negative effect.
We consistently tell kids in Fall Creek that they work hard.  We do not tell them that they are smart.  The theory behind that is that at some point all kids will run into something that they view as too hard.  For those who have been constantly told that they are smart, it may be a let down when they can’t figure something out.  For those who have been told that they work hard, it may be a just another task that they know they can achieve with additional work.
I think I always felt smart when it came to leadership.  Things came easy and I could get by with energy and enthusiasm.  Sometimes I feel like it has been more of a curse than a blessing.  Working to become a better leader is hard.  When things got hard and difficult decisions needed to be made, I often felt like the kid who has been told they were smart for years.  Now what? What if it doesn’t work? What if people start seeing me in a different light? What if the decision is wrong and it impacts everyone’s lives? 

People are often placed into leadership positions because of great interview or because  they had experienced some success in a different role.  The fact is…being a lead learner means taking the process of learning to lead seriously.  Certifications, degrees, and experience can all play a role in that development, but the process has to take you out of your comfort zone and help you move to a different level.  I recently had my leadership teams fill out a survey for me through the Franklin Covey training.  The results were honest, and clearly identified areas that I need to improve.  I am so happy that I have a group willing to tell me I need to get better in certain areas.  The challenge for leaders is we try to get better at too many things and subsequently get better at none. We discuss how we can improve in an area, but rarely find the time to dig deep and get better in our leadership practice.  
We read books and think of ways to implement, and then the day to day operations take over and our growth timeline gets pushed back.

Every year I ask our staff to come with “My Three”.  They find 3 things that they can look to after a day, and when accomplished, walk out feeling good about what happened.  There will be days that they struggle to meet the three and others that they will have them met by the time kids arrive…but it is a constant reminder that little victories can bring big success.  As the year starts, I WILL work on the following as I continue to LEARN to LEAD…

1. Be a Leadership Builder
2. On Time…Every Time
3. Listen More…Talk Less

I am so lucky.  I live in a school district that allowed me to take a Superintendent position with no experience. I live in a school district that allows me to SCREAM the great things happening here in every social media forum I can find.  I live in a school district that was willing to give me time to grow.  We have an incredibly supportive community, a wonderful school board, and a staff that has never said no to an initiative.  They all deserve the best leader, and one willing to work hard at learning to lead.  I could not be happier to call this place home…Go Crickets!

AuthorJoe Sanfelippo