The pandemic has laid bare many faults and inequities in education systems, but it has also highlighted essential skills and successful leadership practices that have proven successful in addressing pandemic-related problems. We have seen firsthand how proven decision-making and problem-solving processes have been the linchpin of success for leaders during times of crisis or stability.
Hallmarks of Good Leadership
- Crisis and change management – Superintendents with crisis decision making experience like Vic Shandor in York County Schools (VA) had systems, skills, and processes already in place giving them an advantage when the pandemic rolled in. Other districts called upon expert consultants to help them as serious issues came to light. Either way, those districts that invested in building the capacity of staff (before, during, or after) gave them the benefits of confidence that things were being taken care of in a meaningful systematic way – and better prepared them for anything they face in the future.
- Two-way communication – Leaders need to find ways to take on tough issues (CRT, equity, gender, race and sexuality issues, health and safety protocols, staff retention, and academic recovery) and provide ways to get meaningful input from stakeholders. Having transparent processes (like Situation Appraisal) for dealing with complex issues or hiring an outside facilitator can help you remove some of the emotional heat from the conversation, helping you gain trust and transparency and better solutions to the issues at hand.
- Effective collaboration – Going it alone is no longer a viable option as leaders take on increasing responsibilities as a conduit between government health and safety rules and recommendations, staff, students, parents and community members. With fluid staffing situations, all staff members have had to step up to keep students safe and learning. Having a system that helps leaders connect, share, learn and network their way through issues is a matter of necessity.
Throughout this crisis period, the demands on school personnel have changed. Leaders that rely on proven processes of problem solving and decision making will continue to make rational decisions, find enduring and practical solutions, gain trust and confidence, and save time and money by avoiding mistakes and using the best thinking of their surrounding community. Finding the best solutions, the best actions, and preparing for the implications of any actions demands careful and systematic thinking. Having a ready process with that good thinking built in saves time, money and upheaval and will serve leadership and staff well in good times and bad.