I’m always amused when individuals talk about all the time school administrators will have during summer break. As any quality leader knows, the time spent between the end of school and teachers and students returning for a new academic year are incredibly busy with hiring, ordering, cleaning, training and a multitude of other things important to the operations of a school district. In fact, the more the superintendent and team gets done between June and August, the better the upcoming year will be.
That being said, all leaders need to take time for reflection. It’s important to think about the year that was; what were successes, misses, opportunities and potential threats on the horizon? This is best done with the senior leadership team, and should include an appropriate amount of qualitative and quantitative data. These ” look backs” prepare the superintendent and leadership team to make necessary adjustments for the upcoming year. Having similar conversations with the board, perhaps during the mid-year or end of year evaluation, is also a value add to ensure leadership across the district has self-assessed areas of strength and identified focus opportunities for continuous improvement.
It’s also important for leaders to engage in self-reflection. As a servant leader, take time to consider not only the outcomes that occurred under your leadership but also how your leadership style and approach impacted the direction of the school district. Many leaders ask their direct reports to do a 360 analysis; allowing a thoughtful leader to get critical feedback and perspectives from the team he or she relies on the most. Every leader, especially superintendents, should have a confidential advisor/coach/mentor to confide with. This allows for sharing thoughts, concerns, fears, hopes and dreams in an open, trusted space. It’s best to have someone who is not trying to validate your thoughts or actions, but can respond by recapping what they believe they heard from you and assisting in further understanding and reflection.
And, it’s important to take time away from the organization. Vacations are not only needed for superintendents with ever increasing demands and pressures of the position; the leader taking time away sets the conditions for other senior leaders to feel comfortable doing the same. Coordinating vacations schedules is essential to ensure the importance work of the district stills gets done over the summer. Equally important, is to respect when folks are on leave. It’s hard to stress the need to take ” time off the train” if the person on leave is getting bombarded by texts, emails and calls. Everyone understands genuine emergencies but quality leaders will ensure that time away from the job is exactly that.
Everyone decompresses differently and while many leaders may want to be at the beach with a good book and a cold beverage, others may want to attend a conference or visit an organization outside of education to consider aligned opportunities. It’s important for every leader to “do you,” and take the time to get mentally ready for the next academic year.