One of our core beliefs at Reaching Higher is that we believe leaders lead their lives by thinking critically for themselves versus being led or swayed through life by the “majority or crowd.” This means that we believe true leaders have integrity – they do what they know is right even when it is hard, even when no one is watching, even when it may be so much easier in the short term to do something else.
As a middle school principal myself for 20 years, I was faced with these decisions almost daily. How do I decide “the right thing to do”? Should it be what is best for the teachers? For the parents? For my boss? What was easiest for me?
I decided early on in my career that I would base all my decisions on what I believed was best for the students. Of course, I still needed to weigh the needs of the faculty and the parents, and I needed to make sure that I had the support of the district leadership. I needed to make sure to listen to different viewpoints and consider ideas from others. Good people could disagree on what was best for the kids. But, when I ultimately made a decision that I truly believed was best for my students, I could have some peace in knowing that I had not been swayed from what I knew to be right.
Sometimes I was faced with a tough decision that required me to weigh the needs of an individual student against what I believed was best for all my students. These were often very tough decisions to make. As long as I kept bringing myself back to looking at what I truly believed was best for the kids, I knew that I had made the best decision possible under the circumstances.
Was I the perfect leader? That sentence made me chuckle out loud! No, I made many mistakes and even some decisions that I later regretted. However, I tried very hard to do what I believed was right – what was best for the kids. I found that even when others did not agree with me, when I took the time to explain WHY I thought it was the best decision for my students, I could very often get some acceptance.
Do we want leaders who make their decisions based on what is popular? Do we want them to make decisions based on what is easiest? Do we want them to be easily swayed by the loudest voice or the angriest person in the room? I don’t think so. We want our leaders to have integrity, to hold to their core values, to do what they know is right even when it is hard. We want leaders who can think for themselves even while taking the time to listen to others. These are the types of leaders we aspire to grow through Reaching Higher.