Close your eyes and think back to those sweet days of summer when you were a child. I know, some of us have to think back a bit further than others. I remember the freedom I had to explore and imagine all day, every day. Growing up in rural Vermont, spending the majority of my summers at a cottage in Ontario, Canada, I was either boating, water skiing, climbing mountains, or spending days by the lake. I vividly recall playing Huck Finn, making forts, learning to sail, and using my imagination to create adventures that mirrored the novels I read on the shore of the lake. The only screen time that was available back in those days was a TV with rabbit ears, and we did not have one at the cottage. Yes, things have certainly changed, and don’t we all wish that we could escape to the proverbial cottage?
During the academic year, school leaders have little room for escape. Screen time is at an all-time high for everyone. Days are full of rapid fire information, decision-making, shifts, starts, stops, and restarts. Doesn’t it feel like keeping up with moving targets has become the norm? With the school year’s end in sight, school leaders and their teams are generally a little worn out. Not exactly a perfect picture of leadership but one with a silver lining as the time for restoration of our hearts and souls is coming soon.
Consider some of the following ways to approach the summer:
- Remember that you are a human being and not a human doing. You have limits. Having limits is not a judgment of your leadership ability. Keeping high expectations for yourself and for others while prioritizing the most important work is critically important. When I was a school leader, I loved the quiet planning time that summer afforded. Pace yourself well.
- Remind yourself that a good leader is never too busy for people. We know that we should prioritize people because relationships breathe life into individuals. Slow down in order to see and hear others. This summer, focus most on your family, friends, and your Savior.
- The job of a leader is to ensure the work gets done. That does NOT mean that he/she has to do everything. A good leader is surrounded by a great team that can be delegated to which builds leadership capacity in everyone. It communicates trust and sends a message that, “I believe in and value your ability to lead.” Model restorative practices to your staff by slowing the pace.
Set the Example: Rest Up
Give yourself permission to refresh and restore your body and soul. Find someone to keep you accountable to that. I don’t know about you, but I tend to be on the move all the time, making lists, completing projects, dreaming of what is possible, and planning. Planning. Remember when we could do that with some assurance? Often, we leave little time to rest. The truth is, we get tired because our schedules and lives are full. We become weary because our spirits and energy are depleted.
Within each of us lives a soul that desperately needs renewal and restoration. We are reminded in Psalm 23 that God restores our souls, but we must turn our hearts and minds away from the noise of our every day with firm resolve and intentionality.
Every leader possesses an acute sense of responsibility. Good leaders remember that it isn’t always about the doing. Great work is done with being—being present, being available, being open, and being innovative. It is a great challenge for Christian leaders who have a sense that everyone is waiting for them to come in and do what they can do. Be heartened by the words from Exodus 13:13–14 that say, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Bravo for leading well this year; now restore well.
Jennifer Thompson is the chief operating officer for Christian Schools International. Reach her at gro.enilnoisc@nospmohtj.
Great work is done with being—being present, being available, being open, and being innovative.