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July 15, 2012 / JaymeJ

Me/Not Me and other Leadership Lessons

I began my summer “vacation” attending the 2012 SAIS Administrative Leadership Institute (ALI) in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn alongside 3 others who hold “middle leadership” positions at our school (Director of Admissions, Curriculum Coordinator, and Faculty Liaison) as well as our Assistant Head. ALI was led by Michael Thompson and Rob Evans, who have a great rapport and an even greater vault of anecdotes to share.  This was my first foray into a conference designed specifically for independent school leadership. I walked away reassured that school leadership was definitely a direction that I wanted to pursue.

As I look back on the experience, a few ideas stand out that will influence the way I approach leadership roles in the future…

Problem vs. Dilemma

People in leadership positions are continually presented with issues to mediate. Some are important. Some are inconsequential. All need to be addressed. Oftentimes, leaders feel as if they have failed if the same issue arises repeatedly. Hadn’t that been solved already? Effective leaders realize that not all issues can be solved. There are problems and there are dilemmas. Problems can be fixed, solved, resolved. Dilemmas, on the other hand, are issues that have no good solution. You will cope with them, make things better for a time, but know that the issue will have to be revisited…repeatedly.

Conflict and Hard Conversations

One of the most informative sessions for me was subtitled “Staying Put or Moving Up.” I love my position now, but often wonder where my career will be in 5 or 10 years. Will I have transformed my current position? Hold another post in our school? Moved on to another institution? I went into the ALI wondering if “administrative leadership” was something that I aspired to pursue.

Currently, my greatest weaknesses are conflict and hard conversations. Knowing this about myself, two ideas resonated:

Your comfort with conflict with adults should increase as you move up in administration.

Hard conversations are hard. You will most likely hurt someone’s feelings. As a leader you need to keep in mind that you hurt them on behalf of children or for the betterment of the institution.

Conflict and hard conversations, two areas of growth that I will now pursue with greater confidence.

Me/Not Me

My greatest takeaway from ALI came from the Me/Not Me exercise. Michael Thompson spoke about me/not me situations. Me/Not me feelings happen instantaneously, at an almost molecular level. It is the feeling of “this works for me” or “this doesn’t work for me.” We have all experienced it – walking into a party, we can tell immediately if this is a place we want to be (a Me) or a place we don’t really feel like we belong (Not Me). Not me situations can be tolerated. But Me situations, the ones you do a little happy dance about, those are where you truly belong.

Attendees were asked to take a moment to reflect upon their Me/Not me. Here are mine:


Watching teachers take professional development and successfully run with it, positiveily impacitng students. Teachers gain confidence which usually leads to them taking the lead, sharing with and inspiring other teachers (their peers). Seeing this makes me to a happy dance!

Collaborating with others; Bringing groups to consensus

Not Me:

Small talk; “shaking hands and kissing babies”

Final “Career Advice”

Michael and Rob gave us some final questions:

Is this what this school needs right now?

Am I the right person in the right positionat the right time?

and some “permission”:

It is always good to let yourself explore; follow your inkling; try it on in your head.

And exploring I will go…next stop…who knows!


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