3 Leadership Instincts that could Fail You



Many people are reeling right now. And when I say, "reeling" what I really mean is struggling, crying, and trying to persevere through the ever-changing rules of a pandemic. Supporting teachers, students, and our school community has never been more challenging...or important.


During times of uncertainty and crisis, leaders often rely on their instincts. Typically, the traits and tendencies we've been intentional in developing are helpful. However, there are a few leadership instincts that could fail you if you're not careful. Worse yet, the three instincts below could potentially do harm to the people you're wanting to serve.


1. The instinct to motivate, encourage, and project a positive attitude.


When morale is low or people are hurting, our leadership instincts might tell us we need to help. The danger lies in projecting positivity without a meaningful acknowledgment of the pain another person is experiencing. And by "meaningful acknowledgment," I mean meaningful to the other person. (Sometimes this involves listening, but it could also involve intentional actions to try and disrupt the things the other person has identified as threats to their own wellness.)


I am a pretty positive person overall, so this new learning has been difficult for me. I just want to caution leaders who might naturally gravitate to proclaiming, "We got this" or "We're all in it together" without wading into an honest dialogue about the challenges and needs of the people closest to the work. Brenda Alvarez wrote a great piece on this in NEA Today if you're interested in learning more.


2. The instinct to standardize all practices.


The number of decisions school leaders make on any given day is staggering. This can lead to decision fatigue after a long day. (If you've ever struggled to answer a very basic question after work, you know what I mean.) One of th