Dear Future Leader
Last week you told me about a recent leadership meeting: participants, proposed initiatives, attempted negotiations, and post-meeting allegiances. I didn’t hear what you needed, but I should have. I tried to dissuade you from higher-level politics. I don’t know if I felt jaded, or if I was trying to protect you. I care about you a lot. I don’t want you hurt by the system, or transformed into something that you are not.
I’ll tell you what I did, but you are your own person, so your course will be different:
Solidify values and vision: Reflect on characteristics and traits linked to your professional vision. Chose adjectives, e.g., “informed”, “resourceful”, etc. Use belief statements and inclusive language to form goals, e.g., “All practitioners have the right to access current research in the field,” “All clients have the right to culturally sensitive services,” etc.
Determine needs and strengths: Interview clinicians across levels of experience. Make calls and visit people. Ask new clinicians what would help them the most. Ask experienced clinicians what system changes they recommend. Use open-ended questions. Act as an unbiased reporter taking notes. Thank people for their time and ideas. Remember each person’s unique insights and strengths.
Learn organizational history: Interview long-time employees. Find out about prior influential leadership, times of major policy changes, previous programs and teams, etc. Trace funding streams of financial allocations.
Review policy: Learn basic fundamentals of federal law, state law, and district policies. Refer to ASHA policy statements. Evaluate how Special Education legislation was interpreted locally. Remember that working within an organization does not negate your clinical judgment.
Organizational initiatives: Track local and regional philosophical shifts and projected program adoptions.
Prepare for negativity: Some people have limited understanding of daily issues and say dismissive and inaccurate things. When this happens, listen impartially to gather more information: “I hadn’t heard about that. Where is this happening?” Provide an alternate interpretation or counter example. Remind everyone that there are multiple ways to view any given situation and one solitary exemplar is not a trend.
Manage feelings: Suppress instinctive emotional reactions. Conversations provide data for planning and progressive steps toward goals. View people as uninformed, not malicious.
Craft recommendations: Combine and synthesize information to form possible steps, e.g., policy changes, committees, trainings, guidelines, etc.
Plant seeds: Start to share small pieces of your ideas with everyone. Pique others’ interest in moving toward positive shared goals. Shape aspects of goals to align with others’ strengths. Let people create meaningful roles for themselves.
Discover solutions collaboratively: Solutions may appear after sufficient foundational information has been shared by all parties. Balance patience with activism. Understanding fosters receptiveness to recommendations. Prepare three possible mutually beneficial solutions with varied levels of implementation to present to administration.
I know that you are incredibly intelligent, creative, and caring. I have watched you consider leadership roles and I’ve encouraged you in the past. You have the potential to initiate changes that will support students and staff now, and in the future. I believe in you and I am prepared to help.