At some point as a leader you just have to decide what fuels you. What's the mission? Not in a "This sounds catchy" kinda way, but deep down in your DNA. Those batteries you're trying to recharge...what have you committed to filling them with?
What is the story or mantra you remind yourself when nobody else is looking?
As you're welcoming students...
Walking into your next meeting...
Preparing for that phone call...
Taking the stage...
And showing up for your family.
One of the most powerful pieces of advice I ever read was also very simple. It applied to everything I was wrestling with at the time and it's something I still carry close to my heart. I even use it as self-talk before I meet with students, connect with staff, and while writing and speaking.
It's nothing fancy and I certainly can't claim it as my own. But it is the kind of DNA-changing advice that makes sense in the world today (at a time when not a lot of things are making sense).
The advice that changed it all was a simple reminder to approach things with the mentality of, I'm here to help. (Which also means I'm not here to impress, center myself, or make somebody else's life harder.)
The helping might involve sharing. Listening. Empowering. Encouraging. Confronting. Partnering. Collaborating. Discerning. Making mistakes. And indeed, it often involves all these things.
I've learned that helping rarely starts from a place of trying to sound smart, look good, or pursuing "likes" in a literal or figurative sense. (These things are an uphill battle for me anyway.)
And I should probably point out, I'm not talking about the kind of help that makes one person a martyr or creates a situation where the capacity of others is diminished because of the helper. Nor am I talking about incongruent leadership where a person shows up one way in front of one group of people and then does a 180 when they're with another group or their family. That's not helpful or fair either.
We need our batteries to be filled with the power to help. Real, actual, consistent, responsive, and humble help.
So before you start your next meeting, plan your reopening, or respond to that email...try to figure out what's needed. What pain points do the people you serve need you to know about? What keeps them up at night? What might make their work easier...or more meaningful?
Don't just assume. Ask them. Empathize. Listen. Learn. Make mistakes. Grow.
Chances are good the people you serve don't need you to be perfect or sound impressive. But they may appreciate real actual help.
If this blog post resonated, you might like my newest book, Reclaiming Our Calling: Hold on to the Heart, Mind, and Hope of Education. The book tackles a tension many educators are feeling using a combination of stories and practical strategies. If you’re interested in technology integration, Renegade Leadership: Creating Innovative Schools for Digital-Age Students is a best-seller with Corwin Press. Both books are built on the belief that everything we do in education starts with relationships and connectedness.