Management and leadership go hand in hand; effective principals blend both into their daily practice. I agree with Bruce Beairsto when he says, “You need management to build a house but only leadership can make it into a home” (from Chris Wejr’s RSCON presentation) – certainly, both management and leadership are essential. A principal’s vision, no matter how clear and worthwhile, cannot be carried out in a school characterized by chaos and disorder. So, without being able to manage as well as to lead, a principal will not be able to fulfill the vision for his/her school.
I think an effective way to manage time on a daily basis is to link my everyday practice to my vision. In other words, the work with which I’m engaged every day should ultimately tie into my vision. At our school, building a positive, connected community and establishing caring relationships are what we aim for and how I deal with students, staff and parents is always tied to that vision. Thus, in my everyday dealings, whether talking to students in the office, or teachers in their classes or with parents in the parking lot, I focus on building and growing positive relationships along the way.
Of course, the occasional hiccup like having to unclog toilets (I feel your pain Daisy Dyer Duer) doesn’t really fall in line with my grand plan but these tasks still need to be done. Certainly, I can’t predict the occurrence of these types of situations but I can deal with my predictable work in an efficient and timely manner so that these hiccups don’t throw off my whole day. Writing reports or preparing for upcoming meetings ahead of time in an organized fashion nullifies the sense of panic when these unexpected problems occur. Nothing becomes an emergency when it is dealt with ahead of time; preparation is key.
Long-term preparation involves building school-wide systems to ensure that, when problems arise, there is a procedure in place to deal with them. When the systems are pervasive and well-established, issues are addressed in an efficient manner, thus avoiding the development of lingering and chronic problems. Effective systems in place in our school help to prevent me from spending too much time in Stephen Covey’s “urgent and important” quadrant.
As much as I try to integrate my vision into my daily practice and to have efficiently run systems in place, I know that I still won’t be able to complete all of the things on my “to do list”, without delegating some of the tasks. No matter how effective I am at time management, I will still need help to accomplish everything. I learned this concept the hard way when, in my first of year of being a vice principal, I tried to get everything done on my own. This experience taught me that without asking for help, I wouldn’t have a long “shelf life” as an administrator. I learned that delegation was not (and is not) an abdication of leadership but, instead, a sign of its strength. Of course, the other benefit of delegating is that it engenders the development of more leaders in my school. I discovered that letting teachers take charge of initiatives about which they are passionate is an effective way to develop more leaders. This indispensable leadership lesson for me was a wonderful bonus in learning how to blend management with leadership.