My Leadership Rules

I am in the process of completing my 30th year in public education. I can remember my first day like it was yesterday. I was young, mostly naïve and ready to get to work. I placed more emphasis on my coaching than my teaching, had no idea how to control the classroom (I was not much older than the students I was teaching), I had little idea about how to earn respect…I was a rookie without a clue. My how things have changed. Over the course of 30 years, 15 of them as a school administrator, I like to think I am getting smarter…although there are some parents out there who might argue this point. I think that I have learned some things along the way. After 30 years, I decided to try and figure out exactly what I had learned. What I came up with were my leadership rules, those things that are non-negotiable for me.

My people come first

I learned a while back that I did not have a direct influence on 150 each day like I did in the classroom (see my entry on “What is Your Box of Chalk?”). However, my teachers do. It is my job to protect them from parents, central office, whomever. It is my job to make sure that they have everything they need to do their jobs, which is to reach every kid that comes into their classroom. They can’t do that if they are searching for paper, or looking over their shoulders to see what is coming next. It is my job, my responsibility, to make sure that they can focus on their craft, which is teaching. I am obligated to support them when it comes to this endeavor.

School never was, and never should be, a business.

School is not a business. It is not a job. Hear me out on this one. Businesses don’t deal with children’s futures, they deal with profit. Education is more than test scores and bottom lines. It is about building confidence, allowing students to find their passions, providing a solid foundation, academically, mentally and socially. School is about so many things that cannot be measured.

Get comfortable with 52-48 decisions

As I progressed from teacher to department chair to assistant principal to principal, I realized very quickly that my “window” grew proportionately. I also realized that the importance of decisions grew proportionally. When it came to the approval of those decisions, the opposite was true. I found that I had to get very comfortable with a 52 percent approval rating of any decisions. Now, understand I am not talking about the easy ones. Those are pretty clear cut. I am talking about the ones where there are two or three different solutions, none of which are clearly the best choice. that is where I have become very comfortable with the 52-48 type of decision.

Always work to get better.

As a coach, I firmly believed that there was no maintaining where you are. You are either getting better or you are getting worse, because someone else is working to get better than you. When I became a principal, this became our school motto. We do not have a different theme each year. We believe in getting better every day. As a leader, I need to live this every time I walk through the door. When I talk to my faculty, I always ask them what are they doing to get better at their craft? As the leader, I have to ask myself every day what am I doing to get better, how am I modeling that for my teachers and staff?


So what are your leadership rules? How do you live them each and every day? Would love t hear from you on what you think is important as a leader.


About drellena

Principal of Tomahawk Creek Middle School in Chesterfield County, Virginia. 2018 Outstanding Virginia Middle School Principal of the Year 2018.
This entry was posted in Leadership, Learning, Life lessons and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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