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I never watched TV on-demand until the pandemic. Quite frankly, I have never been much of a television watcher or movie goer. Give me a good football or baseball game, and that was about all.  Now I can (ashamedly?) say that I have binge watched more travel, cooking, and PBS shows that I want to admit. It’s great. I can learn new skills, travel the world, or simply sit back and be entertained. Because of the plethora of channels and streaming providers, whatever I ask of my TV, it can deliver.

That’s what leadership feels like some days. Demands on our time, expertise, opinion come in at such a rapid-fire pace that it feels like each person we lead has a remote control connected to our channel. I actually love that aspect of leadership. We are kept on our toes. No day is like the next, making each excitement and energy filled. The pace, however, can drain us if we are not careful. I learned that the hard way. 

In my first year as an elementary principal, I decided that my main job was to be a problem solver. I like to solve problems, I’m pretty good at it, and it appeared on the surface that things were really getting done, and progress was quick and easy. However—BIG however—not one member of my team was growing personally. I became the sole problem solver, with a team of 50 relying on me for everything—a perfect set up for disaster and a definite need for immediate culture change. Here are a few steps we took that may help in your leadership journey:

  1. Build a joint capacity to lead, as well as a trust in each other, as you and your team work collaboratively. My team continued to come to me with problems/issues, but instead of relying on me for a solution, they had to bring at least one solution to the table. Through this, my team was empowered and began to believe in their ability to implement positive change.  
  2. As a leader, there’s no way that you know it all! Get to know your team well enough to build each up and team them up to encourage engagement and ownership of programs and the future of your school/organization.
  3. Get used to being “on-demand,” but guard your time as well. We all know that when the leader is running on empty, none of those demands will be answered.

If you are feeling like the demands of you and your time are extreme, here’s another challenge: over a two-week period, monitor your day in 15-minute increments. Write down everything that you do during the day—phone calls, email time, meetings, water cooler conversations. Everything. Really look at how you are spending your days. When I did that, it was eye-opening. My day was being driven much too heavily by email. I learned to schedule time to review email to just 3 times each day, so I could spend the bulk of my day on what matters most—people. (I felt much less on-demand when I made that change, too.)

As leaders, people are our priority, and being available to others is one of the most important parts of our job. We desire to support, encourage and inspire the individuals on our teams so they can flourish. Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us of just that, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.” Intentionally managing the demands of each day well will give you some margin, but it will also help others realize that they don’t need to use their remote quite so often.

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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