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Many of my friends and colleagues in Australia are getting ready for the start of the 2020 school year. Sadly some of our schools have been destroyed by the bushfires so students and teachers will be relocated to temporary locations. Not a good way to start the school year!

One of my North American friends is a Principal at a school in Phnom Penh and she sent me a personal message today asking how her students could donate money to help the people and wildlife that have been so devastatingly effected by the bushfires in Australia. In fact, people around the world are helping by sending love and money to our relief funds.

The fires have been terrible and the devastation shocking to us all. But I can’t help but be so proud of all the people worldwide who are standing up to help Australia. If you or your students would like to donate funds to help people or wildlife you can organise donations to the Australian Red Cross or the Australian RSPCA. Sadly, Sydney University has estimated that 480 million animals have perished since the first fires started in September.

We would love it if your students wrote letters to our students to tell them how the world feels about our loss and suggest ways we can rebuild. Building relationships and caring about people and our planet are such important global messages to start the school year. If you would like to make contact with any Principals in Australia contact me and I will send you contact email addresses.

As a Principal and Head of School with 20 years experience I have always loved the start of the new school year but it will be a particularly challenging time for some school leaders this year. Over the years I have learnt a great deal about school leadership; what works and what doesn’t. Maybe this list will be helpful to you.

Here are the Top 5 Mistakes that I’ve learnt to avoid over the years.

  1. Everyone’s excited! It’s great to get back together with your team and talk about holidays, adventures and the disasters. Don’t make the mistake of complaining, gossiping or blaming. Read Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles and take 100% responsibility for changing your school to meet the needs of 21st Century learners. Instead build a culture that is vision and mission aligned, inspire your team to dream and empower positive, can-do people to achieve those dreams.
  2. Don’t give your time away too freely. Reconsider the Open Door Policy! This was a great idea in the 20th Century, but it really doesn’t work today. Giving away your time willy-nilly to others means you are not in control of your time and you are not focusing on the school’s most important priorities. Instead make yourself available to your school community but do it strategically. Block out the times in your day and weekly calendar to focus on your Strategic Plan goals. NEVER cancel these times unless it is a real emergency. Schedule alternative times during the week for people to make appointments to see you if they feel the need. Also  consider empowering others to solve their problems or come to you with a  ‘suggested solution’ to discuss. Encouraging ‘power to’ rather than ‘power over’ is an awesome 21st Century Leadership skill. Remember, the school community depends on you being a strategist who is always focused on growing the school to best cater for Gen Z and Gen Alpha.
  3. Don’t make the mistake of meeting for the sake of having regular meetings. Plan meetings for a strategic purpose or to develop professional learning outcomes, not to disseminate information. Be creative and harness your entrepreneurial mindset. I created Collective Genius Meetups at my last school. We were all leaders at different times and discovered flexible and agile solutions to take our school forward. Your teachers will appreciate this and see you as a learner, which is so important in the 21st Century!
  4. Don’t focus on what is urgent. Basically this is crisis management and you need to stop doing it fast. Not only is this not showing leadership for your school, you will burn yourself and possibly others out. Focus on what is most important. Manage your distractions! Get organized, schedule your priorities, delegate, supervise, create a Stop Doing list and breathe. Arianna Huffington provides great advice in her book Thrive and so does Tony Crabbe in his book, Busy – How to Thrive in a World of Too much 
  5. DO NOT worry about what you didn’t get done each day. Always focus on what you did get done and celebrate that. Only focus on 5 or 6 tasks each day and before going to sleep think of the 3 things you did get done and the 5 things you will focus on tomorrow. You will sleep much better if you do. Remember, if you did not achieve a high priority task reschedule it for the very next day, or the soonest available time, and make sure you get it done. Always Think Strategically and you will be an Awesome 21st Century Principal!

Want more tips on how to be an awesome 21st Century Principal? Why not attend Leadership for the 21st Century Workshop at the American International School Sukhumvit Campus Bangkok on 28 & 29  March 2020. It has had rave reviews and has helped hundreds of Principals, Aspiring Principals, Curriculum Coordinators, Team Leaders, Department Heads to meet the challenges of leading school in the 21st Century.

Click here for more information or check out the video below.


    Download our "Top 3 Challenges Facing School Leaders today" whitepaper and learn how to overcome them.