Leadership has many components but one that is often overlooked in its significance is the importance of listening. I have often asked myself why. From my perspective, it is because the stereotype of leaders are those who are “doing” and constantly making changes. That may or may not be accurate, but leaders do try to challenge the status quo and often find it necessary to be working on implementing change — as they recognize only action creates change. But we must recognize that listening is an important part of making positive change in our school communities. When we listen to others, the students, staff and families; then we are able to identify from the people we serve if true actionable steps have occurred and also identify areas in which to grow. As a reminder, the data is important but it’s more important to be people-driven. Simply meaning — we must focus on the people who are the stakeholders in our school communities and involve them in the change process as we strive for growth.
Below are key questions to consider using with different parts of your school community to help you as the leader to listen and learn. This allows someone to identify key understandings, what areas are working well but also what may need to be addressed. It is through this process of listening to ideas, positives and concerns that leaders are much more effectively able to be the leaders of people and not just leading themselves. Ultimately, this also allows a leader to identify how to develop others and maximize their impact within the school community.
Listening questions to use with students
- What do you want learning to be like in school, and does this match the current reality?
- How do you feel valued and a part of our school?
- What are you passionate about?
- If you could change one thing about this year, what would it be?
- What can we do different to further make our school great?
Listening questions to use with staff
- What do you love about our school?
- How is this school year and your instruction different than last year?
- If you became principal today, what would be your 1st change and why?
- How can I support you so that you enjoy being at our school and feel fulfilled as an educator?
Listening questions for families
- Describe the mission or purpose of our school for your child?
- Does your child feel valued and excited to be a part of our school?
- How we can further involve you in our school’s experience?
- What is the greatest strength of our school we must continue and also the area we must address and change to grow as a school?
There are many difficult parts to leadership and one of those is time. I believe that listening to others and then acting upon that feedback is essential to your growth as a leader and that of your school. As a result, finding the time to listen to those we serve is not only an important part of the work — it is the most important part of the work.
True leadership occurs by intentional efforts when leaders take risks and strive to get better. In those instances, there are times a person will fail or have defeat. A critical part of leadership is listening to others, getting their feedback and using that to strive for excellence. It is never too late to change or adapt to create something better. We owe that to our students and staff that we serve.
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