Being transparent, honest and vulnerable all have been an integral part of how I have chosen to educate both as a classroom teacher and now as a leader. The more my words match my actions, the easier it was to build credibility and trusting relationships so that the real work could happen.
In the classroom, some students were won over easily while others tested me relentlessly waiting for me to give up on them and when I didn’t, they still had a hard time trusting I wanted to help. Children and young adults can understand this commitment more willingly, not tainted yet by years of experiences that color their understanding of the world.
As a leader, it was similar, but with an edge. There were some who easily trusted or wanted to, while others despite my best efforts decided about me immediately and showing them that I was here to support took time and even still they believed it a means to an end.
Trust is a wonky thing, so powerful, so tenuous and so essential to the work we do. Taking risks requires an atmosphere of safety that must be nurtured and so it is true for new leaders too.
One of the biggest challenges I have had a new leader is who to trust. My heart wants to believe that we can all be in this together and that people’s words are the truth; I know mine are, but I have learned, sometimes the hard way, that that is not so. Sometimes in leadership, people think about themselves first and present an air of trust while making choices that self-promote.
Honestly, I struggle with this because for me to be my best, much like the teachers, I need to be able to collaborate and trust to take risks and grow.
There are a trusted few, but I often second-guess myself, fearful that if I say too much, show too much, I will hurt myself, but I have resolved that if that is the way I go down, at least it was in my truth.
Knowing how to read people is usually a strength of mine, but since I have switched roles, I have never questioned myself more. I’m not sure if that is a function of me or everyone else, but I will keep trying maybe just keeping myself a little more at a distance reaching out to other trusted friends with whom I can be myself with full disclosure.
Because I need that.
My fallibility must be okay for me to thrive. I grow by learning and that includes making mistakes, sometimes very public ones. As I continue to shift my mindset to that of a new leader, I still cling to my former role as a teacher and remember what that felt like, the camaraderie, the loyalty, and the successes. I will build those in this role too and I will find my tribe.
As I continue to figure out my place in all of this, I lean on my PLN, other trusted friends and leaders who have been doing this much longer than I have. These people offer perspective and honesty and advice with loving support as they want to see me grow and be successful as I do them. So thank you to every one of you who have been a phone call, text or coffee date away - you know who you are and I have so much gratitude for your wisdom and friendship.
Being new is never easy, but it does have its benefits. Learning to trust takes time and forgiveness and a willingness to bounce back and try again, maybe just in a different way. We can’t give up on each other, that’s no way to grow.
So how can we persist in these situations and grow and nurture a thriving, trusting environment where everyone, adults, and children feel safe to learn? Please share
The opinions expressed in Work in Progress 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.