“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” ― Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
As a principal in a school it is important that my school community is clear on what I stand for. This is not just about brainstorming a list of strategies and putting it into a plan. Its about exploring ideas and developing a clear vision.
The ability to visualize and articulate a possible future state for a school has always been a vital component of successful leadership. Once developed, the vision should provide the cornerstone for everything that you do in the school.
A vision is about creating a short statement that will guide you over the next 3 to 5 years. It should be specific enough to say something about what you will do and equally what you will not do. It should be capable of driving the school to achieve its goals, and be somewhat motivational so that you have a constant reminder of what you are trying to achieve when the going gets tough.
Without a vision, a school is like a ship without a rudder and is in danger of drifting aimlessly. Many schools lack a clear vision and so they tend to jump from task to task without a clear understanding of what bonds the individual tasks together and/or the value created by the individual tasks. Schools are notorious for jumping on the next “bandwagon” as they chase the panacea for improved student outcomes.
When I begin leading a new school I am always reminded of the quote form Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” where there is a conversation between Alice and the Cheshire Cat:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
Remember, vision and strategy are both important tools for the school principal. But there is a priority to them. Vision always comes first. Always. If you have a clear vision, you will eventually attract the right strategy. If you don’t have a clear vision, no strategy will save you. This is the challenge for the school leader! What do you stand for?