Opinion
Education Opinion

What Drives Your Leadership: The Universe or Your Goals and Passions?

By Megan M. Allen — May 04, 2017 3 min read

How would you categorize your leadership work outside the classroom?

Is the majority goal-oriented or universe-related?

Let’s try an activity to think this through.

Grab a piece of paper.

Yes, that one will do.

Now take 2 minutes to jot down the leadership experiences that you have had, both formal (connected to a role, possibly a stipend or money) or informal (not tied to a role and not necessarily compensated). Don’t overthink it, just jot them down.

Trust me, try it.

Now for step two. Let’s think about how those experiences occurred. Go through the list, and circle anything that is universe-related. By universe-related, I mean the experience happened out of:


  • Necessity or urgency (it needed to be done, and/or who else would do it?
  • Opportunity (it presented itself and I thought hey-why not?)
  • Appointment or ask (someone asked me to do it or I was appointed).

Seriously, spend a few minutes circling the universe-related experiences. Trust me, we are going somewhere. There’s a big point here...come along on the journey.

So what do you notice?

If you are like me, I noticed that the majority of my leadership work was circled. Universe-related. A little more random, a little less strategic (though I’m thankful for the journey).

It made me think deeply about my path as a leader. Was it more strategic and goal-oriented, or is it more random and up to the universe?

I don’t think that one answer is better than another, but I am thinking deeply about this. And I think there might be a piece that is making me think about my next steps in the future.

I surveyed my colleagues with this question, using the very official and research-based Facebook poll. And over 80 percent were in the same boat as me, and also a little surprised when they found this out. The few that did related their experiences to more goal-related reasons said that this was something they realized later in their careers, but that it may not have always been this way.

I tried this with 45 district teachers of the year in Connecticut last week, and it happened again. Audible “wows” were heard around the room as teachers realized their whole list was circled.

Why am I thinking deeply about this?

I think about retention a lot, working with teachers to develop themselves both professionally and personally. What happens when we are only doing work that is coming down the pipe from the universe, but that might not line up with our goals or passions? What happens to our teacher-leader mojo?

For myself, I do think that the universe-related experiences really helped me develop professionally. But personally? I’m not so sure.

But the items not circled on my list (the goal-related/passion-related ones) make my heart go pitter-patter. They connect to my passions and got me excited to get up in the morning. They are the shiny, sparkly pieces that light up my educator soul.

The experiences done out of necessity or opportunity were amazing, but I can promise you working on teacher evaluations did not make my heart go pitter-patter. I don’t know if that work made me a better person or if I experienced much personal growth advocating for better evaluations. But it sure was necessary and urgent.

If we are always working on issues or work that we are not necessarily passionate or curious about, or ones that are not really goal-related, I think a couple things can happen. We can feel spread thin, because we are always saying yes. We lose touch with a little bit of joy. We can burn out. We work, work, work, but may feel a little empty on the other side of it.

So I’m not saying to ditch all the work that doesn’t make your heart go pitter-patter. But I am saying that if we only dig into the work that must be done, we might lose a little of our leadership sparkle.

We must stay connected with our passion. With our goals.

What do you think?

Coming tomorrow: A passion education map to help us reflect on our leadership goals and connect with our teacher leader mojo

Photo courtesy of Mary Ann Morgan.

The opinions expressed in An Edugeek’s Guide to K-12 Practice and Policy are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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