Helping Young Leaders Slay Dragons
Helping Young Leaders Slay Dragons

POSTED: March 4th, 2012

CATEGORIES: Article, Budget, Charter School, Edu Business, Education, Leadership, Superintendent,

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DISCUSSED: 4 Comments, (Join the conversation)

I love young leaders.  They don’t know what they can’t do.  So, they just go for it. It’s fun to watch because there is a process to this.  I’ve seen it before.  I’ll see it again. Young leaders demanding respect of a vision they hold instead of earning respect for what they have accomplished.  I understand that the charter school world is fairly young and therefore accomplishments can’t be measured in time like the rest of education.  But, at the same time, there is something to be said for old age and wisdom, especially when it has to do with patience, understanding and making decisions that stay made.

I was young once and understand the need to rush in and slay dragons immediately.  Over the years, I slayed a lot of dragons and learned a few lessons about the need to slow down in order to go faster and reach your vision in a more comprehensive and meaningful way.   Don’t get me wrong, I still slay dragons everyday – bigger, meaner ones, I just do it in a way that doesn’t create any nasty after effects.  But, one of the things I still love is working with the passion of the younger leaders, help where I can and watch for the inevitable growth that comes learning that not all dragons are worth fighting.

Let me give you an example.  One time I had an assistant principal who wanted so badly to be a principal.  He decided that to prove his worth, he was going to go out at tackle our attendance problem. (It really wasn’t a problem, but in he had a vision so off he went.)  I didn’t try and discourage him. I didn’t encourage him either.  I just thought that if he was this excited about doing it, who was I to tell him otherwise.

The next day, he came in furious.  “Why didn’t you tell me??!!” he demanded.  “Tell you what?” I asked.  “How horrible it would be.”  I grinned and told him, “Because you wouldn’t have listened anyways.”

It seems that during his calling of parents asking why their children had been out of school and getting on them for attendance, he forgot to check on thing; how they were doing in school.   He found out that hard way that haranguing a parent of a straight ‘A’ student for missing three days of school was not going to be met the way he thought it would be.  Nor did her realize that his title, ‘Assistant Principal’, in and of itself was going to make people automatically accept his parenting advise.  But, again, I couldn’t have told him that.  It was something he needed to learn on his own.

And, I guess that’s what this entry is about.  Younger leaders need to slay dragons and charge castles.  Mature leaders need to understand youth and offer guidance and understanding at the right times.  We need to help the young mature and offer our support and understanding.  Shoving something down someone’s throat won’t quench an appetite.  It will only serve to slow down their growth as they work as hard to prove you wrong as they do to prove themselves right.

So for now, I’ll watch, offer my help when asked, and be there to counsel and encourage when things don’t go as planned.  I’ll let them know that nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems at the moment.  The sun will rise in the east and the next step is easier than the last.  And, over time I will see bright young people mature and become leaders who will do likewise to the young leaders they help someday.

by The Ed Buzz
  1. This is extremely insightful! I am one of those young leaders and always need to hear words like this- It’s why I love blogging- I get to read world-wide wisdom that is sometimes ageless, but full of the wisdom of experience/age when needed.

    It is challenging to to be in a position of passionate leadership with so much vision, but so important to hear from others what their paths have been. I met with my Asst. Supt. a few weeks ago to gain some perspective and what she provided for me was not what I expected, but exactly what I needed. So I guess the question is, what do leaders do when they recognize young leaders? How do they recognize and encourage without giving too much direction? Or creating false confidence? I have found myself twice under leadership that was quite silent- I almost crave someone to tell me what to do next. I suppose that is part of the path.

    • The Ed Buzz says:

      I understand what you are saying. There is always a balance between saying to much or directing too little. The thing I mostly look for is people who make mistakes because they are trying too hard versus ones who make mistakes because they don’t react to obvious situations. If your heart is in the right place, you will find the way. Then, it is my job to encourage the path – not disrupt it.

  2. Jazzman says:

    This applies equally well to young teachers! While in a practicum, I once told a student who had asked for a complete rundown of the task for the third time in as many minutes that they should ‘listen better next time’ after running through the list again. I only found out after the parent e-mailed my teacher mentor that the child who was involved had a mild condition and an IPP where following directions was a constant difficulty. This was a plan that was not specific to the classes I was teaching, and so I had no idea to even consider other factors. I learned my lesson VERY quickly.

  3. Subhabb says:

    Great advice! I remember my frustration during my Ed. Leadership classes a decade ago when my professors would not give us answers to the issues that plagued us. They kept encouraging us to wrestle with issues and ideas. I think that is what helped me become more reflective. Even today, while some things are easier to respond to, there are other things I still need to wrestle with. Asking questions and learning from other leaders’ experiences, and my mistakes has helped me grow tremendously. At a time when educators see school leadership as a ‘tough’ job, I’d encourage them to take a peek, stretch themselves and jump in. I love being a school principal and while I’ve found several dragons that are worth slaying and castles worth charging, I still run into the ones I should have waited to tackle! The learning and growing never ends. And I’ll add, it is in working with younger leaders that I get to look at my own work through a different lens, reflect and refine what I do! Thanks for another great post!

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