I spent the last several days thinking and talking about leadership and the pathways that lead to and open into leadership opportunities—particularly in a writing project context. Settled in the rustic natural beauty of the hills outside Austin, I did a lot of walking, and talking, and thinking.
In the educational community, many teachers doubt their leadership—especially if it is situated outside of the classroom. Leadership feels like something bestowed, it comes with a recognizable title, and it means telling others what to do.
But in so many ways, my own experiences with leadership have involved making and doing. It has been about invitations that carry with them a sense of belief that I have something to offer—maybe something I haven’t yet recognized in myself. It has been about saying yes even when I wasn’t sure of what saying yes meant.
And like this weekend, sometimes I walk behind someone else, noticing the footsteps, watching where they sidestep the boggy places and climb over the branches.
Sometimes I break the trail, exploring through my feet on the ground, listening to the sounds around me, noting the running water and the squirrel that runs overhead. When I feel lost (and that definitely happens!), I stop to look and listen. What happened to my path? Can I find it again…or make my own in the moment? And there are times when I simply have to backtrack, retracing the steps I already took.
So I know how to support new leaders in the ways I have been supported to grow as a leader. But how do we recognize and make spaces for leaders with abilities and knowledge different from our own?
How do we make spaces so their leadership can take root and grow outside the groomed planter boxes that are easily recognizable?
All that walking and talking has me contemplating possibilities, and is lighting the fires of design thinking. I’m looking forward to gathering a team at our writing project site to considering alternatives that will include those who haven’t found our typical entry points, creating new access–hopefully for those who bring talents and perspectives currently missing from our conversations and our planning.
I’m walking my way in to new understandings…and I hope that will also open up new pathways for others to walk their way into leadership at our site, enriching and expanding our community of learners and leaders.