Effective Leadership Starts with Positive Thinking -This I Believe

I was recently tasked in one of my graduate classes at Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!) to write a statement about my beliefs in the form of “This I Believe.” This style was founded through NPR as a series that is pretty similar to what Ted Talks have now become. I thought not only was this very powerful in making me focus and reflect, but that if I believed it so much, that I should put it out there publicly. I chose to focus on one specific belief that I feel very strongly about. Here we go…

This I Believe

Every day you walk down the halls of your school or down the rows of your classroom, you will see exactly what you intend to find. I guarantee it.

If you choose to look for and appreciate the good, you will find it, but if you choose to look for the bad and be critical, you will find that too. Whether we realize it or not, we choose which type of lens we wear which then in turn completely determines our perception of the environment around us. The trick, though, is that the lens is not actually in the eye, but in the mind. The mind’s eye controls what your biological eye sees. We can learn to control our mind’s eye but beware, because as Buddha stated, “Rule your mind or it will rule you.”

I believe that we shape our world around us more than it shapes us and we do this through what we choose to look for and see.

As a school leader it is vital to understand how our worldview and beliefs affect how we act towards others. Do you think of yourself as a fixer, having all of the answers, and are on this planet to improve everyone, many times whether they like it or not? Consider how you will approach those around you. On the other hand, are you appreciative of hard work and find ways to praise and acknowledge the amazing actions already happening? Consider how that viewpoint would affect those on your team. Maxwell states that leadership is influence. We will be more effective leaders if there is trust and a positive relationship with those we are hoping to influence. We will be more effective leaders if we choose to connect by building on the positive than if we break others down on the negative.

I believe in the power of intentional actions and specifically in how we control what we think. 

It is not always easy to view others in the positive and I have struggled with that in so many ways. I think my nature tends to be critical and too tough. I have learned that I needed tools, strategies, and support to keep my mind positive. Many times throughout each day we have to decide how and what we think about. In order to control those thoughts, we need to do repetitive positive actions.

I use social media as a tool to remind me as a principal to look for the positive things happening in my school. Every day I look for the wonders that are taking place and try to capture these for others. Parents and teachers think my pictures and comments are for them. In a way it is, but not in the way they think. In a way it’s a selfish act that I know will keep me grounded in the positive. I realized early on using social media in my school that when I went searching for examples of effective instruction and engaging teachers, suddenly they were everywhere. The more I looked to take pictures to share positive aspects of my school, the more I saw amazing instruction, excellent students, and happy parents. I started taking so many pictures that I couldn’t even post them all. I blew up my social media feeds. I surrounded myself with like-minded positive leaders and educators. I started bragging about my school in very specific ways. More importantly, my attempts at being positive actually impacted and changed my own mental viewpoint on those around me. I started believing what I was preaching. I went from just telling them I was proud of them to actually believing it.

I believe that we help ourselves by helping others.  

The challenge of leadership is dealing with the many issues that arise and exist, but not letting those situations distract you from your goals and not letting them transform you. The more I looked for greatness in others, the more I wanted to help make special moments for them. The tough stuff in the job tends to push us to think too critically about the performance of those around us. Focusing on strengths helps gain insight into what motivates and interests them. Because of this, I gave more choice and a green light to my teachers to take risks. I challenged myself to inspire and not require, to motivate and not mandate, and the added pressure for me to change reminds me to be a better leader.

I believe that being an effective leader means thinking about and controlling our own thoughts instead of trying to change and control the thoughts of others. 

This I believe.

What do you think about when you think of your students or team? Are you taking charge of these thoughts and doing things to be think positively towards others?

I challenge you to write a “This I Believe” and help us learn from you!