Future Ready Leaders


Four Essentials of Future Ready Leaders

This is the statistic that disrupted my thinking as an elementary principal:

65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.

Today’s schools are tasked with serving an increasingly diverse student body in an era of high-stakes accountability with rigorous standards, utilizing technology that is expanding exponentially while preparing students to be future ready for jobs that haven’t been invented. In order to do this effectively, schools need future ready leaders.

I have mentally wrestled with defining future ready leadership and landed on an approach versus specific skill-sets. Here are the four essential behaviors of future ready leaders:

  1. Commit to increasing self-awareness. Though it is rarely a highlighted leadership competency, self-awareness is quite possibly the most crucial skill a school leader holds. Self-awareness is understanding your personality, strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, tendencies, and emotions. Even more, self-awareness includes understanding how other people perceive you, your demeanor and your interactions. Korn Ferry Hay Group research found that among leaders with strengths in self-awareness, 92% had teams with high energy and high performance.

Looking for a first step to increase self-awareness? One of the simplest ways to gain self-awareness is taking time once a day to reflect on the day’s events. A strategy to improve the effectiveness of reflection is to use a journal. Mental notes fade in time, but black and white notes provide a more accurate record.

  1. Make a paradigm shift to focus on strengths. It has been traditional education practice to focus on areas of growth. For example, it is common each year for principals to identify goals and create growth plans. It is equally important to identify personal strengths as well as the strengths of colleagues. Strengths based leadership has been shown to lead to increased school performance, teacher retention, and employee engagement. Yet, most schools don’t have structures and systems in place to focus on strengths.

Gallup (www.gallupstrengthscenter.com) provides surveys, coaching tool kits, and additional resources to support strength based leadership. Each of us has work for which we are ideally suited. Creating the school environment and conditions that support optimal performance is the art of leadership. It is leadership at its best.

  1. Be a lead learner. In the rapidly evolving education field, the pace of change is accelerating. This is especially evident in technology advancements and the need for cultural proficiency. An internal drive makes you a constant learner, seeker, and explorer. Roll up your sleeves and be an active professional development participant. Be vulnerable, listen to others, and respect others’ skills and knowledge. Serve as a model in a school with a learning culture. A school eager to improve and better equipped to adjust to advances and demands in the field of education.
  1. Invest in connections and relationships. The notion of principal as an individual heroic leader working autonomously to save the day is outdated. The most effective school leaders surround themselves with the right people. Leaders who invest in connections and relationships are better informed, more creative, more efficient, and better problem-solvers. A trusted professional network results in effective, efficient decision making and more support for ideas and plans. The best leaders may not be well-rounded but the best teams are.

Article by:
Tracy Reimer, Associate Professor and Leadership in K-12 Administration
Bethel University
Twitter: @TracyReimer53


Goleman, Daniel, “Self-Awareness: The Foundation of Emotional Intelligence”, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/self-awareness-foundation-emotional-intelligence-daniel-goleman

HayGroup, “EI at the Heart of Performance: The Implications of our 2010 ESCI Research”, http://atrium.haygroup.com/downloads/marketingps/nz/ESCI_research_findings_2010.pdf 

McLeod, Scott and Karl Fisch, “Shift Happens”,  https://shifthappens.wikispaces.com


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