The purpose of this post is two fold:
- Principals and other local school leaders can use these quotes to meditate on or challenge themselves to grow as a leader.
- Use these school leadership quotes to inspire your staff.
You’re a Catalyst
I picked this quote because it highlights the inherent power each leader has. As a catalyst you accelerate change. It may not be you on the front lines, but it is you that sets the environment, culture, and tone for the organization.
This quote in The Infinite Game comes from Sinek describing an experience with a bartender, Noah, at the Four Seasons hotel. Noah tells Sinek that he “loves his job.”
So Sinek asked “Why?” and finds out that it’s because his managers care about him and they create an environment where he can be fully himself.
In fact, Noah has the same exact job at another hotel and he hates it. He punches in at just the right time and leaves the second his shift ends. He works in a way that doesn’t draw attention to himself and absolutely does no work that his customers would consider remarkable.
We need Noah’s on our team. Be a catalyst that creates the conditions for him to thrive.
Austin Kleon is a wonderful artist. I like how clear both of these quotes are. The first quote should make you laugh and the second is an interesting take on art galleries.
As a leader, you are in the spotlight and everyone believes they have permission to offer their opinion, critique your choices, and give you unsolicited advice.
That doesn’t mean you have to listen.
This concept reminds me of Brené Brown’s “Square squad,” which challenges a leader to write all the names of people whose opinion matters to you on a tiny 1” x 1” piece of paper.
The gist is clear. Be careful whose opinion and feedback you listen to.
Choose Who You Want to Be as a Leader
It’s easy to go through the motions. It’s comfortable even. But if you want to be a leader that has great impact, then you need to be intentional about the kind of leader you want to be.
The first step many leaders have done — consider the kind of leader you want to be. Who are some of your heroes? What are the characteristics they embody that you want to display as well?
Most leaders stop here.
But you’re not going to grow your self-awareness by merely wanting to be more self-aware.
You need to act.
The second step is making a plan. If you want to show up relaxed, yet focused what routines and rituals will help you get there? What kind of preparation is demanded?
Make Your Goals Fun
I’m lucky enough to call Tommy a friend. This guy is incredibly inspiring to me and I love his take on goals.
There is a paradox in entrepreneurship — if my work day feels too stressful or unenjoyable there is only one person to blame — me!
I think the same is true in the best schools where leaders are empowered to cast the vision, chart the course, and map the way to progress.
Like all exemplary coaches, Tommy uses a simple reframe to open up a universe of possibility. If your goals aren’t fun, then why is that a goal?
I’m curious, how many of your current goals would you restructure or rewrite to fit this standard?
Mind Your Words
We all suffer from the Imposter Syndrome. Steven Pressfield calls this challenge “The Resistance.”
Words are powerful and especially the words we tell ourselves out loud or in the space of our minds. It’s important to mind our words. Earl Nightingale said that, “We become what we think about.”
Think about that assertion. If true, it has tremendous implications. Speak health and be healthy. Speak illness and feel sick.
It’s normal to struggle with this. I haven’t met a leader who hasn’t beat herself up with her words and thoughts. At my worst, I’ve said things to myself like, “You’re so stupid,” or “You don’t deserve anything nice.” Neither of those statements are true and they set a ceiling on what I can accomplish. They are upper limit challenges.
Mindfulness training has been an incredible help in this regard. Now, at my best, I can notice when the negative self-talk starts.
And something funny happens when you start to get really good at noticing …
When I notice and when I get curious, I say to myself, “Is this true?”
The thought disappears and another one replaces it.
Go ahead, try it for yourself and enjoy the freedom of noting and non-judgment.
Words have power and if we can be mindful of what we say to ourselves, we can unlock untapped potential. Hopefully you don’t speak to your colleagues this way, so why do that to yourself?
Protect Your Vision
One of my favorite topics to teach on is vision. Like many things in leadership, vision is nuanced and layered.
For example here are the basic principles of my system:
- Create a robust 3-year vision.
- Identify what success looks like this year.
- Take annual goals and break them down further to each quarter.
- Plan out an ideal week, budgeting time for deep work that moves the vision forward.
- Every Sunday night, assigns tasks mapped to major goals and input into each day.
- Keep score of your progress.
I love Hyatt’s quote because he puts a number to attaining your vision, but to someone who loves learning, thinking, and taking action on vision it was challenging to read that I need to block out 40-60% of my time for vision work.
Who Is Your Enemy?
“Having an enemy gives you a great story to tell customers, too. Taking a stand always stands out.”
-Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson in Rework
Let me be clear here. When I say enemy, I do not mean the school down the street or even other schools in the state or nation. The level of competition between schools is foolish; we should be sharing what works best for kids freely between schools so that all students have access to the best education has to offer.
But it still helps to have an enemy.
T’Challa vs Killmonger.
Batman vs Joker.
The enemy of most schools can be the system in many ways. It can be racism, injustice, sexism, and other inequities and prejudices.
By appealing to people’s hearts and principles, we can rally the staff to defeat the enemy. Galvanized, your people will work harder, with more focus, and intensity.
And at the end of the day, the kids win.
Busy ≠ Creating Value
If your schedule is out of control, what can you cut? After all, you are in control of your choices and schedule even if it feels like you are not.
“I wish I could … I’m just so busy” is a common phrase used by leaders with an out-of-control schedule. They wear their busyness as a badge of honor, but it’s nothing to be proud of. It shows a lack of boundaries, a lack of an ability to say “No,” or an unhealthy reliance on work to provide validation they can get from themselves.
This is a struggle as much for me as for those I serve. I love my wife for so many reasons and if you’re as lucky as I am, your partner can act as a mirror to help you recalibrate. A coach you trust (or mastermind) can do the same.
With a helpful nudge from my wife, I have scheduled two “tea breaks” in my work day. This is common in British, Zimbabwean, and South African cultures to step away from work.
I commit to meditation as well, because it helps me check in with myself, recalibrate, and improves my emotional intelligence.
I am experimenting with “No Work Fridays.” I don’t schedule meetings, coach, or create content on these days.
I avoid email.
Fridays now are for personal development in any domain of life.
If it is spiritual, I spend time in contemplation, or reading spiritual and philosophical books.
I try to go for long walks outside on Fridays specifically.
Personally/Professionally I use this time to curl up with a book that will push my thinking or watch a video regarding coaching.
It feels good to cross off countless items on a never ending to-do list.
The other day, I didn’t do much at all in terms of quantity. In reality, I completed one major task — writing my current book. I facilitated the masterminds I lead. It felt like I wasn’t productive so I had to reframe my evaluation of the day as an absolute win. I helped a bunch of school leaders and I completed the most important task of the day. That is enough.
Completing 1000 things in a day doesn’t make me a better coach. It doesn’t make me more productive if I choose to view productivity as creating value versus a packed schedule. And it certainly doesn’t make me a better human and husband.
I need to stretch and I need plenty of time to decompress throughout the day so I can be my best when I choose to engage with work. If you feel like you have to be constantly plugged in and available, you don’t. That’s a myth. I have helped countless leaders get control of their schedule and I’d be happy to serve you in that way too (email me if you want some coaching on this topic).
I love using poetry. I find it useful to engage both the creative and emotional parts of myself. I also find that poetry unlike other content can connect with people in ways that quotes, videos, and nonfiction cannot.
When I use it coaching leaders it leads to deep, vulnerable conversations that leave us both better for having the courage to connect in that way.
This quote is from the poem, “The Bell and the Blackbird” which is featured in a collection of poems by David Whyte. The book and the poem have the same title.
In the beginning of the poem David introduces the reader to sound. First a church bell, next the song of a bird. The poem then quickly pivots to the purpose of what the poet hears — an invitation to wake up and to engage with a deeper, more meaningful life.
I don’t know what the sound or signal is in your life, but it’s there. And it’s beckoning you to wake up and be the leader you were created to be.
Don’t be the leader you think the world wants you to be. Show up as the leader you were created to be. It’s a more valuable posture to hold.
Be the Captain of You
“It’s well and good to hope for that special mentor or coach (and cherish the ones you come across). But don’t put off learning until they arrive.”
– Douglas Stone and Sheila Hene in Thanks for the Feedback
Great leaders are not born, they are formed. One similarity from leaders I have studied is that they are all people of action. In 2015, I was at a crossroads. I was an unappreciated and undeveloped school leader. So I had a simple choice. I could throw myself a pity party and wait for the district to or the universe to provide me a mentor, or I could take my development into my own hands.
I chose the latter. That is the story of how the Better Leaders Better Schools podcast started. I found my mentors by taking initiative and scheduling conversations with some of the best and brightest leaders around the globe.
You can do the same.
Start a podcast. Enroll in a local leadership group. Read plenty of books and use the authors as virtual mentors.
And, of course, you can apply to the mastermind.
Since 2016, it’s been my privilege to mentor 100s of school leaders from around the world. We’d be lucky to have you join us.
Since you landed on this post about quotes, I’ll link a few others that you might be interested in as well:
- 10 powerful leadership quotes
- My friend’s favorite educational leadership quotes
- 12 quotes every school leader should consider
All my quote posts are organized here.
If you enjoyed these quotes about school leadership, then I’d appreciate you sharing this post on social media ❤️