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Tuesday afternoons at 2:00 have become a highlight of my week.  For about 8 months, roughly twenty school leaders have gathered for a one-hour virtual meeting. It has become our lifeline, our therapy session, our time to commune as imperfect leaders in an uncertain time. It has been GOOD. Very Good. This “new” virtual world has literally opened up the world of leadership to each of us. There is power in connection. These meetings will not end when the pandemic has come to an end.

Leadership can be a lonely place, even for collaborative leaders who lead in teams regularly. When it comes down to it, there is someone who has the final word, and there can be quite a bit riding on that decision. Imagine finding an affinity group of individuals who fill a similar role as you. It is a safe place to bare one’s soul, ask questions without judgement, voice self-doubt, encourage and be encouraged. Connecting on all levels—emotional, spiritual, professional—brings a new, much higher capacity for personal leadership and professional growth. It should be the new surge, new wave of meaningful relationships and innovation in leadership and education.

Taking these new connections, relationships and conversations from theory to action is the next step. How can we do this? I suggest it starts with boldness and courage and a willingness to walk into new conversations. Here are what I have found to be the golden nuggets from collaborative conversations:

  1. There is power in transparency. This is where the boldness comes in. It can be hard to admit that you don’t know the answer. Managing a situation that is new to everyone has taken that stigma away. Listening to and learning from other leaders is a key to building personal leadership skills and building knowledge.
  2. It is not always the most experienced leaders who have the best ideas. Innovative and creative thinking can come from anywhere. Again, listen well!
  3. We don’t know it all, but no one else does either. There is great relief in that. Getting advice from people who have different perspectives is a great way to open your mind to new ideas.
  4. People like to share resources! You will find that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel because someone is bound to have had the experience or created that form, or answered those hard questions before.
  5. Collective leadership is the future of Christian education. Our individual silos will have trouble standing if we don’t collaborate. That school down the street is NOT the enemy. In the end, our schools aim at very similar targets—we want children to know and love Jesus, love others well, and understand the Truth of God’s Word.

Individual one-on-one conversations have arisen from the Tuesday afternoon meetings. If you are not already connected to a group or groups, be the initiator with just a small group from within your local area. I’d advise to get outside your “regular” circle. If you are reading the blogs posted on WCLE, connect with any of the writers who can either connect or direct you.

The moral of this story? There is no need to be lonely in leadership. We know the adage that misery loves company, but l would change that to leadership loves company. As you have real conversations with other school leaders, the breadth and the depth of God’s work beyond your own school’s walls is refreshing, renewing and exciting! You will be reminded of the corporate work of the body of Christ and rejoice that you have been called into good, hard work for the Kingdom.

[Editor’s Note: Contact information for our regular contributors can be found in the WLCE Blog Masthead.]

Author Jenn Thompson

Jennifer Thompson has served in Christian education for almost twenty-five years in various roles from basketball coach to science teacher, elementary principal to head of school at schools in both Florida and California. A native of Vermont, Jenn has an undergraduate degree in Sociology from Wheaton College and a master’s in science in Educational Leadership from Florida International University. She completed the Fellows program at the Van Lunen Center for Executive Management in Christian Schools at Calvin University and currently serves on the Council for American Private Education (CAPE) board. Jenn is the chief executive officer of Christian Schools International.

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