A few years ago I wrote a book called Lessons in Leadership, drawing on the wisdom of pioneers in the afterschool world – individuals who have made a real difference in developing and sustaining exemplary programs, forging authentic partnerships, building the capacity of thousands of staff members to be more successful than they had ever imagined, influencing public policy and impacting the lives of millions of children and young people.
I’ve received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from readers who have followed their advice and are becoming part of the next generation of leaders in California and across the nation. Above all, they’ve learned that leadership isn’t a position, it’s a choice they’ve made and you can, too!
Lead with purpose, passion, and vision.
Your knowledge, abilities, and talents will determine what you’re capable of doing. Your motivation will have a huge impact on what you’ll do and where you’ll go. Your attitude will influence how far you go. Believe in something that larger than yourself, something that gives purpose and meaning to your life. Create a powerful, compelling vision of what could be, fall in love with the destination and focus your efforts on bringing it into reality. Commit to leaving a legacy of lasting value by making the world a better place for everyone around you and for children and their families and your community. Re-ignite your passion and take yourself and those around you to the next level!
Put people first.
No matter what else you do, nothing will be as important as the relationships you build, the trust you gain or the confidence people have in your ability to lead them to a place they want to go. Your success depends on the success of those who work for and with you. Take time to build authentic relationships. Meet people where they are. Get to know them as individuals and not just employees. Do everything you can to support them, help them become more confident and competent and make them feel valued and valuable.
Create a culture of excellence.
Be open, honest and collaborative. Share information freely. Deal with real issues in real time. Set clear expectations and be sure everyone understands and buys into them. Be fair, consistent and supportive. Show up and stand up for what you believe in. Inspire people to do their best work and see themselves as members of a high performing team. Set high standards of performance. Hold yourself and everyone else accountable for what happens, or doesn’t happen.
Be a risk-taker in a risk-adverse environment.
Be creative, innovative and bold. Keeping fighting for what you believe in. Don’t give in to bureaucratic or political pressures, succumb to naysayers or take the path of least resistance when more is called for. You may not always have success, but your wins will count in a big way. It’s better to take chances than settle for mediocre success or be overcome by inertia. Get out of your comfort zone. Make things happen, don’t wait for them to happen. You won’t always get what you want, but at least you won’t regret what you didn’t do when you had the chance.
Create the Future.
No matter where you’re coming from, where you are at this point in time, what opportunities you have or what challenges you’re facing, what really matters is where you’re going and what difference it will make when you get there. Establish your own priorities – or someone else will! Set and achieve meaningful goals. Align your goals with your vision, engage your staff, your colleagues and your partners in developing them. And, importantly, do good, have fun and make a commitment to co-create the future together!
Oh, and by the way, don’t forget to talk good care of yourself – we’re all counting on you to lead the way! I’m just finishing a fruit smoothie for breakfast. How about you?
Author Profile: @andriaf