Day 148 (of 184) when leaders have to lead
“Unfortunately, leaders become leaders only during times of turmoil — when you need someone to act quickly and decisively, to make you feel better about everything, to make you feel like you’re OK. You don’t learn how to handle these situations. You either have it or you don’t.”
These comments from “The Sports Guy” aka Bill Simmons seem to be ringing true in BC Education right now. Tough decisions need to be handled. While the comments were directed towards the NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and his handling of the very tough/sensitive Donald Sterling affair, there are similarities in handling “sensitive issues” – specifically how much is public vs private; how fast or slow does it move; and how does the leader….lead.
Right now in BC Education, a lot of work is being done on budgetary decisions – which again has a lot of sensitive issues around it (especially in a time of teacher job action) and leaders are needing to ‘show who they are’ in a time of turmoil.
There aren’t courses or classes that you can take – sure there are case studies you can analyze and talk about, but these are not the same as actually “doing” leadership during turmoil. I reflect back on my handlings of “leadership during time of turmoil” with 3 key guiding points:
Stay calm – or at least act calm. There have been times where I have had to be modelling calmness when I was falling apart inside. But just like when you pretend to smile for a bit and then it becomes ‘real’, when a leader models ‘calmness’, that too can spread and become ‘real’. Just like if you panic, so will others… Staying calm doesn’t mean you aren’t doing a lot – but it is like a swimming duck – you see one part above the surface, while below the feet are kicking like crazy.
Move quickly when you need to. Some ‘emergencies’ aren’t. It is difficult to know to what degree some are. There are some that don’t need to be thought about (ie death) and those are ones that you need to move and act fast. Adam Silver managed to “fix” a significant problem for the league within 72 hours – 48 of which included a weekend….sometimes leadership doesn’t look at the calendar.
Don’t isolate yourself. You can’t do it all, so don’t pretend. There will also be many others who want to help. A good leader will use a variety of resources in times of turmoil. Adam Silver had a many conference and private communications with the owners of this league to ensure he had the support (and I’m sure to run some ideas by them, and have them run thoughts by him) before a final decision was moved to. Having a strong Professional Learning Network is invaluable – whether communication happens face to face, via phone, asynchronously via twitter, sharing (and even venting) with other educational leaders you trust lets you know that you are not alone.
Leaders show who they are during tough times. It is one thing to lead when times are good and things are calm….quite another when things are ‘falling apart’. This is when it is important to use:
self-regualation (be calm)
judgement (move quick or take time)
team (use your leadership team/network for support)
Trust your instincts and your experience and Keep Calm and Lead!