My Leadership Point of View

I’ve been in several leadership development sessions this year (as an attendee and planner) that have focused on the notion of personal leadership to create and share your own leadership point of view. It has been an interesting and beneficial reflection process to think about the people, experiences, and values that shape my thinking around leadership.

At my current organization, we continue to create a strong culture of leadership and vulnerability. We not only had the participants share their leadership point of view during our learning sessions, at each staff meeting, we rotate through for everyone to share their own story. It has been one of the most powerful and meaningful team building exercises I have experienced. Not only do we learn more about each other and how we operate, people have shared some of the most meaningful experiences that have shaped their life and work. We find out what truly matters and it is beautiful!

Much of the work of crafting a leadership point of view centers on reflecting on people and events that have shaped out, identifying core values, clarifying how you came to hold those values, and reflecting upon how those values have played out in your life thus far. Ken Blanchard shares great tips from his executive leadership program on creating a leadership POV. There are many ways to go about it. Here is the process he suggests which involves answering these questions:

• What are three or four critical events in your life that shaped your beliefs about leadership?

• Who are three or four people in your life that shaped your beliefs about leading others?

• What do you know to be true about exceptional leaders?

• What are your top three to five values when leading others?

• What can others expect of you in the future as you align your actions with your core values?

• And, what do you expect of others as you align to your core values?

So here goes!

Events that shaped my life:

  1. I was raised by a police lieutenant and a legal secretary. Following the rules and the law was valued greatly in my family and I became very good at it. I had a healthy respect for authority, was a good student, never got in trouble (except once for chewing gum in 6th grade), and was overall very successful. I learned to play the game of school well. It took me a long time to see the value in breaking the rules, standing out and not caring so much what other people think. Being over 40 helps a lot with that!
  2. My parents got divorced (very amicably) when I was in middle school. This taught my sister and I how to become strong and independent women – a hard lesson I still value today. My mother got remarried as I was graduating HS and was moving to Texas. She suggested I visit UT to see if I would like to go there for college. Well of course, who doesn’t love Austin?! So she settled down in Port Aransas and I made my way to one of the largest universities in the nation only knowing 2 people.  I think it was my naiveté and independent spirit that carried me through that journey. I met such a wonderful array of unique individuals during my time at UT. It was so fun to be out in the world on my own and surrounded by intelligent, motivated people, who didn’t always follow the rules. This experience definitely helped shape me.
  3. In 2010 a former student, Taylor Storch, lost her life in a tragic skiing accident. I sill think about The Storch family daily. Before this loss, there would be days where I would dread making the lunches for my kids, or doing the laundry, or picking up the messes. Now I know her parents (and many others who have lost loved ones) would give anything to “have to” make that lunch, do the laundry, or clean up a mess made. I truly don’t take people or time for granted anymore and work to let those I care about know how I feel. Watching how this amazing family turned their loss into a gift for others through the creation of Taylor’s Gift (an organ donation foundation) has also changed me. I don’t know if I would have the strength to do the same, but am so grateful for their example.

People who have shaped my leadership:

Honestly it is hard to only name 3 or 4 people who have shaped me. I find people
fascinating and try to learn from everyone that crosses my path. I believe that all people
have a unique gift to share and show up in my life for a reason. So many have shown up
right when I needed it and I am grateful.

Sometimes I learned from people the kind of leader I do not want to be – backstabbing,
gossipy, negative, micromanaging, untrusting, playing favorites.

Qualities I have seen in the great teachers, principals, superintendents and education
leaders that have crossed my path have shown me how to:
– Have a relentless focus on making the lives of all children better in any way possible
– Everyone has value and gifts, you just have to find them…EVERYONE!
– Not be afraid to push hard to move education forward (I was taught to not make waves, so people with this kind of courage spark something and inspire me to be brave)
– Doing what is right even when it is not popular
– Hard work shouldn’t feel hard all the time and it is OK to have some FUN!

What do I know to be true about exceptional leaders?
Great leaders:
– Continually revisit the Why of the work. Give people a purpose
– Know that relationships are key. People (kids & adults) need to feel safe and supported if they are going to learn and thrive
– Great leaders empower others to bring their best skills, ideas and talents to the table
– Don’t take things personally
– Sometimes they totally break the rules for the right reasons

What are my top three to five values when leading others?
I will:
– Be authentic – I spent so long trying to be who I thought others wanted me to be, it was exhausting and I’m soooooo over that!
– Be positive – no whining/complaining/victim mentality. My reality is what I create.
– Never Stop Learning – there is always something I can get better at and the world is full of things I don’t know yet…
– Work Hard – we’ve got lots to do to transform education!
– Have Fun – We spend a lot of time working on this stuff…it can and should be enjoyable

What can others expect of me?
– I ask a lot of questions – I want to understand the big picture and how all the pieces fit together to make sure what I’m doing works. I’m also like to know what is going on.
– I’m here to help. Please ask! I’m happy to share what I know.
– I will be honest with you – if you want feedback I’ll give it.
– I’m opinionated, but can be swayed when presented a differing point of view. I also like to debate things. (Just ask my husband)
– I like to laugh and make jokes but don’t mistake that for a lighthearted attitude about the importance of the work I do. I take this work very seriously or work hard to bring my best to the table. Ultimately, we are in the kid business. We should be able to model learning at high levels but have fun doing it. Serious learning can be fun too!

What do I expect from others?

– Show up as your authentic self
– Do your best, whatever that may look like for you
– Ask questions, be curious – not judgemental
– If you have an issue with me, come to me. Let’s work it out
– Don’t take yourself too seriously – we all make mistakes and it is ok to have a little fun 🙂

If you made it this far – thank you! Now it is your turn. What would be in your leadership point of view? I encourage you to reflect, craft your own answers, share with me and with those you lead. It will be a powerful experience. Don’t let your story go untold.

The Challenge is Showing Up…

This year I decided once again to participate in the 30 day challenge at my yoga studio. As I walked in for my daily class, people were marking themselves off on the board of participants before class had even started. I laughed because in the car I thought about doing the same thing, but decided I would wait until the end of class to put my mark. The goal is 30 classes in 30 days and I hadn’t done class yet. When I told my friend I was going to wait until after class she said, “Oh no, the challenge is showing up! Once you get here class is easy.” For those of you who have ever done Bikram yoga, class is NEVER easy. It is 90 minutes of yoga in 105 degree heat and 55% humidity. (I love this hilarious account of a husband taking class for the first time.) But when she said that, my thinking completely shifted. I felt accomplished and grateful that I’d done the hard work to get there. What a difference! I went in to class a little lighter and ready to do the best I could.


I’m really good at making excuses why I can’t get to class – too much work to do, kids need help with homework, too tired, you name it! Don’t we do this in leadership too? We tell ourselves there is not enough time, money, technology, resources, we don’t have the right people, we’re unsure what to do…the list goes on and on. I’m not saying there aren’t real challenges in education, there are! But that is even more reason we need great educators to show up everyday to serve our students.

Sometimes it is difficult to show up because of the fear of criticism. Everyone believes they are an expert about education since they’ve been a student. Parents, grandparents, business leaders, legislators…these days everyone seems to have a critique of education and what is wrong. And there is a platform to share their thoughts. But the more you show up to lead your classroom or school, take the opportunities to connect with your students and share the great things that are happening, the more support you are going to build. Brene´ Brown shared this section from a Theodore Roosevelt speech in Daring Greatly, which is a book every educator should read, actually every human should read! I absolutely love the message and have repeated these words to myself many times in the face of difficult challenges and failures. (We don’t really need motivation when everything is going swimmingly…)

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

-Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic”
delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910

I get it, the work is hard and the demands are endless. But Congratulations – you showed up today! Give yourself credit for it. You are in the arena and giving all you have . Put that checkmark by your name. You are present and ready to get to work.Keep showing up and I bet something good will happen!




This quote hangs on the wall in my office as a gift from my former principal. I love how it changes a problem into a learning opportunity.

For many years I’ve chosen my word inspired by  @JonGordon11  #OneWord  to focus my year. Past words have been Focus, Growth, Joy, Intentional and others I can’t remember. When I started thinking about my word for 2017 I struggled coming up with something new and different that would speak to me. I began thinking about what I really loved and how I want to be in 2017. What will help me to take action, change, grow and learn new things but not feel like a mandate or more work? The answer was easy, I LOVE to DANCE!

Ever since I set foot in my first ballet class with a kindergarten friend, I was hooked! I went straight home and begged my parents to sign me up for dance classes and never looked back. I spent so many hours at The Dance Shoppe growing up, it was like a second home. I competed with our dance group in middle and high school and was the director of the UT Dance Team in college. While I don’t dance formally anymore, there is plenty of dancing around the house, in the car and an occasional two-step with the hubby. Dancing has always been in my life and it helps me feel alive. I want more of that in 2017!

Trying out new dance steps

I love the notion of literally dancing more, because it sparks joy for me, but also in the figurative sense. My friend who is a professor and life coach uses the phrase “dancing on your edge” frequently when talking about pushing boundaries and trying something new. I want 2017 to be a year that I push myself to try new things (like writing this blog) and dance on my edge more. Education is transforming and we must push ourselves to be better for the students we serve. I look forward to dancing more on my edge to get out of my comfort zone, experiment, be brave yet vulnerable, try new things, find out what works, share ideas with others and be supportive.

Kick off your Sunday shoes

One of my favorite movies is Footloose. I actually liked the 2011 remake almost as much as the original (1984), but it’s hard to beat Kevin Bacon! There are many great lessons in Footloose, but one stands out as I look forward to dancing through 2017. Sometimes we’ve gotta cut loose! At times, I can take life too seriously, especially when I’m stressed or tired. It is a total energy drain. Learning and leading can and should be fun. I’m giving myself (and you) permission to cut loose sometimes! Smile more, be goofy, don’t be afraid to show your sense of humor, dance like no one is watching. Education is built on personal relationships and developing them is much easier when we are having fun. Don’t worry I won’t make everyone dance, but I will focus on creating a fun learning environment to grow and support meaningful relationships.

Dancing in the rain

Life is going to have rainy days, that is unavoidable. How we handle those rainy days and our reaction is something we can control – really the only thing. When I traveled to Bali in 2011 it rained everyday. At first I thought the “bad” weather was going to ruin the trip. One day we were on a tour and it started raining. Immediately our guide turned his face and hands up to the sky with a big smile and proclaimed, “Our daily blessing!” My negative attitude about the “bad” weather instantly changed! Now every time it rains I’m grateful for the blessing. Rain does not have to be a problem that ruins your day, but can be a learning opportunity. It actually is really fun to dance in the rain! Have you tried it? Have you tried it with your kids? As we move into 2017 I hope that I will be able to dance through the rain and change problems into learning opportunities.

Start a movement

We’ve probably all seen the youtube video of the dancing guy who looked a bit crazy at first, but with commitment, collaboration, support and some new friends he created a movement! Sometimes I feel like the lone crazy guy dancing out there alone, but as I continue to share and connect with others I believe we are creating a movement that will transform education. I hope you will join me and dance, try something new, have more fun, turn problems into learning opportunities and maybe even start a movement! Here’s to a great 2017!!