There are t-shirts and bumper stickers available today that proclaim, “Procrastinators: The Leaders of Tomorrow.” There are also all kinds of references that point to your school’s students as “The Leaders of Tomorrow.”
That’s not what this article is about.
This article is about vision, since, as stated in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
And, as a leader today, you must have vision, before you can have supervision.
Unfortunately, there are SO many administrators today who are excited about the possibilities of their new positions, and then get bogged down in the day-to-day so much that planning for the future becomes preparing the “do” list for tomorrow rather than the dream list for where the school will be in 5 years. Further, many times that “do” list for tomorrow is simply an extension of what didn’t get done today…or yesterday.
The real work of the administrator is as the long-term visionary. If you are the Principal, the title really doesn’t mean principal teacher like it did back in the day…and you’re certainly not the fill-in teacher when a staff member calls in sick. It means the person who is principally responsible for the school’s success. If you’re fortunate enough to have a President/Principal model, then, indeed, the Principal’s main work is to ensure the excellence of the classroom experience. I’ve known school Presidents who are out of their offices for most of the day meeting with donors, alumni, community leaders and others, and are criticized for not being at the school enough. Guess what? They’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing! Advancement Directors are many times criticized for NEVER being in their office. Guess what? They’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing too! They’re responsible for stuff that happens “outside” the school, like seeking outside sources for funds, and engaging families who not associated with the school to feel a part of the school community even before their child is enrolled in it. The President is where the buck stops, and is responsible to the board – not the members of the board, but the board as a cohesive unit.
If, as the leader of the school, you’re fighting daily difficulties, and constantly putting out fires, you’ll, pardon the pun, burn out quickly. It’s the long-term crafting and implementation of policies and procedures, focusing on security and standardization that will help to prevent fires in the first place. Certainly emergency plans are necessary – but it takes time and rehearsal to ensure that breaches of secure and established processes can be handled properly. In fact, with preparedness, “emergency plans” become “crisis plans,” since “emergencies” become disasters when there is a failure to plan, a lack of readiness, or a degree of non-preparedness.
Take a look at today’s job seeker. A good employee may certainly be doing a “good job” now, but their perspicacity compels them to plan for what’s coming up next. Those that become comfortable in their positions, or let fate take its course are the ones who get blindsided by the detours created by circumstances and the events of the day. They may even worry about what will happen to them rather than plan to overcome their anxiety. Not only does Scripture speak about vision, but in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks about the futility of worrying:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Mt 6:25,27).
Someone once told me that if you’re worrying about something, it means that you haven’t planned for it. The same is true for a journey. Back in the days before the Internet, the Automobile Association of America (AAA) had a catch phrase: “A trip well-planned is a trip enjoyed.” If , as the leader of your school, you have the vision to see where you want the school to be in 5 years, that’s the first step to create a plan for it, discovering what it will take for the vision to become a reality. Similarly, with a nod to Laurence J. Peter, if you don’t know where your school is going, it will probably end up somewhere else.
(Note: If you’re not familiar with Laurence J. Peter, his name is associated with The Peter Principle, which, generalized, states that anything that works will be used in progressively more challenging applications until it fails. I’m sure you’ll think about this the next time you’re looking to improve upon a process and someone says, “But that’s the way we’ve always done it.”)