For character education and other kinds of prosocial development initiatives to be optimally effective and for it to have the optimal impact on the flourishing of human goodness and academic success, school leaders need to make their own character development a personal priority. In this way, they encourage other adults in the school to commit to their own self-examination and development, in turn, becoming models for students.
There are several ways these questions can be used:
- Simply answer them for yourself, as a self-reflection activity.
- Rate yourself on each question (here is a downloadable version):
- Circle the items that you rated “Never or almost never” and “Sometimes but not often” and that you would most like to improve.
- Then, choose one or two as top priorities.
- Next, use a goal-setting worksheet to start an Action Plan for improving each of these priorities.
- Use them to rate another person, either by simply answering them or by using the rating scale.
- Have a group of school leaders engage in a self-rating, and then discuss as a group the insights people gleaned from doing this. If your time is limited, you might choose one quality to focus on at a time.
- Ask staff to rate you using the rating scale, and then compile the results. If you are very brave (courage is a leadership virtue), present the summed results to the staff and discuss them together.
- Do a 360-procedure where you rate yourself, your supervisor rates you, and those you supervise rate you. Then compare the results, and ideally discuss them with others.
- Use the results of any of these procedures to identify strengths and areas for growth. Then create a strategic plan for personal improvement based on the results. What specific characteristics do you want to work on? Create SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely). Consider having an “accountability buddy” to check in periodically to help monitor your progress and keep you on track.
Good leaders need to be comfortable with themselves, willing to be vulnerable, and willing to authentically share themselves with those they lead and other school stakeholders. Of course this needs to be a measured judgment because the principal sets the emotional tone for the school, and there may be times where a more moderated demeanor will serve the greater good.
- Do you welcome input?
- Do you solicit input?
- Do you reflect on and seriously consider input when you receive it? Are you willing to change?
- Do you value innovation, new ideas, and creativity?
- Are you flexible (not rigid)?
- Do you seek opinions that are different from your own?
A leader needs to lead from her authentic self. It is critical to dig deep into who one truly is, why you chose to lead, and how you can best serve those you lead. Authenticity can also be understood as a form of integrity—a unity of your values, words, and deeds. Trust is critical to effective leadership. People cannot trust you if you are not authentic and do not demonstrate integrity.
- Do you practice what you preach?
- Are you the same person regardless of whom you are with?
- Do people feel they can trust you?
- Do you consistently live by your principles?
- Are you reflective (not impulsive)?
- Do you know yourself well; are you introspective?
- Do people have a clear sense of who you are, what you value, and why you do what you do?
- Do you intentionally let others know your motives and deeds?
Staff trust the leader to the degree that they perceive the leader as competent at her job and generally as an educator. When implementing a prosocial development initiative, this means managing the adult culture, guiding and modeling a developmental behavior management philosophy and system, and providing professional guidance on relevant professional development.
- Are you good at understanding others?
- Are you effective at building, maintaining, and restoring healthy relationships with others?
- Do you know how to and do you model effective ways to work with others to improve their behaviors?
- Do you model personal/professional growth, and are you able to motivate others to develop and grow?
- Do others see you as a competent leader?
Being inspirational is about what others do because of you, not what you do. Do others follow, emulate, and admire you? To be an effective leader, others have to follow you. It is helpful to differentiate a charismatic leader from an inspirational leader. The former is always liked and may be respected; the latter is always respected and may be liked.
- Do others want to follow you?
- Do you motivate others to join your noble purpose?
- Do others look up to you and emulate you?
- Can you change others’ behavior simply by being or doing what you want them to be or do?
- Do you bring out the best in others?
Excellent, caring educators can also be, in effect, dictators. They may be benevolent dictators but dictators nonetheless. It is the rarer case that an educator intuitively shares power and control in any meaningful or significant way. Empowering others is a form of respect for them and helps build relationships.
- Do you share power with others?
- Do you encourage teachers to share power with students and to create classrooms that are more democratic?
- Do you authentically delegate authority to others?
- Do you listen?
- Do you have a collaborative leadership style?
- Are you willing to “lose” debates and disagreements?
A central element in trusting someone is knowing you can depend on him or her. Part of that is being transparent (open, authentic), but another piece is predictability. Is the leader likely to do what they say they will and what you expect they will? Can you count on it?
- Do you try to keep promises and meet deadlines?
- Do people feel they can count on you to deliver what is promised or expected?
- Are you seen as predictable and consistent?
Adapted from PRIMED for Character Education: Six Design Principles for School Improvement by Marvin W. Berkowitz. Copyright © 2021. Published by Routledge. Excerpted by permission of the publisher.