Success tips from a seasoned leader

Guest column by Dr. Andy Underwood, superintendent, Belton School District – Mo.

As new school leaders begin July 1, there are many new aspects of their lives that will change, the least being a new mailing address. I think back to lessons I have learned from other colleagues in my first years and realize how many of those ideas have stayed with me even today.

Ten leadership lessons I’ve learned: 
  1. Have an open-door policy and mean it. Share office hours if needed.
  2. Be a good listener, and remember, listening doesn’t always mean taking action.
  3. Take time to investigate concerns and give expected times for a follow-up conversation.
  4. Be a learner and observer, especially in the first year.
  5. Research strategic plans. Talk to staff. Review notes from your interview to follow up on the Board of Education’s suggestions.
  6. Learn the Board of Education’s preferred mode of communication and recognize it may not be the same for every Board member.
  7. Communicate regularly with Board members; perhaps even pick a specific day they will be certain to hear from you. There will be other communications, but they will always hear from you on Wednesday, for example.
  8. Remind yourself: Anything sent in a text or email can end up on the front page of a newspaper or on social media.
  9. History repeats itself. Look back at the last three to four years of Board agendas. Utilize these as a guide to help you understand how the district has operated, and they may give you ideas to expedite Board meetings, such as adding a consent agenda.
  10. And finally: Do what is best for the kids and be able to explain why you are doing it. The response should not be “because the Board of Education made me do it.”
Be a leader. Be a visionary. Be a champion for children!