Leadership is often defined as a position, an office, or the ability to guide or direct people. My view is that leadership goes beyond these definitions to its true essence: inspiration. An authentic leader has the ability to inspire, to literally "breathe life" into ideas, to give encouragement or "heart" to others.
As heads of schools, we are challenged to bring that breath of life and heart into the daily activities of our school communities. How do we accomplish that? Where do we go to get encouragement and enthusiasm for ourselves and for those wonderful people with whom we work? There are times when energy is low, the todo list seems overwhelming, and we feel it is a struggle just to complete the essential tasks of running a school, let alone provide inspiration! It is so easy to get lost in the details of daily responsibilities, but we need to remind ourselves to take a few minutes each day to renew our own spirit and to encourage those around us to do the same.
We each have different sources of personal inspiration: particular poets, authors, quotes, symbols, music compositions, pieces of art, places in nature, religious practices, or friends, colleagues, or relatives who speak to our soul, rejuvenating our courage and love of life. We need to keep these sources of inspiration near and to dip into their wellspring often for our own sake and also for the sake of those around us.
Stephen Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, encourages us to concentrate on our own sphere of influence, to write our own personal mission statement, and to review it frequently as we set our priorities and plan each day (Covey, 1989). Personal mission statements are essential, as are mission statements for our schools. As a staff we revisit our school's mission statement at the beginning of each school year. We have it written in calligraphy, framed, and hung just inside the main entrance to our school. We also created a symbolic interpretation of the elements of our mission, which has become our school logo. At a glance the logo represents our mission to each of us. It reminds us of why we are here and boosts our spirits.
Showing prospective parents or fellow educators around our school and explaining the Montessori philosophy deeply inspires me. I often wish I could share that feeling with the teachers who are in the classroom trying to get to every child, giving presentations, checking activities and work journals, recording observations, encouraging each child to achieve mastery, preparing the environment. …