It was the middle of January, and it was my 24th birthday. I have always been a rather shy guy. I was in my third year of teaching in this suburban, upscale community. I so enjoyed teaching, and my students seemed to enjoy my style of gritty zestfulness when engaging them in productive learning situations. Also, the parents seemed to be appreciative as did most of my colleagues, who were highly experienced and senior in age.
On that day in January, an announcement came from the office of the school superintendent indicating that I had been appointed by the School Board to become principal, effective later that year.
The announcement appeared to be enthusiastically received by most of the faculty and by the school community. To be sure, I would be replacing a very popular principal who had been appointed to another administrative post within the system. Each of us would assume our new position on July 1.
Needless to say, in spite of my shyness, I was enthusiastic but a bit apprehensive about this new appointment. I knew the school, the faculty and many of the students, and I was familiar with school policies and procedures. I also knew that I was probably the youngest person on the faculty. I would be following a very experienced and well-liked administrator who was highly regarded by everyone. This would be a challenging leadership responsibility requiring the very best I had to offer.
But I was used to hard work, and I knew that the grit of creativeness, perseverance, resiliency and tenaciousness would be required. And so, with some trepidation, I began to prepare to assume the challenging responsibilities that lie ahead.
The school was comprised of 550 students, 35 members of the faculty and staff and a very involved parent group. These factors were a bit intimidating. The community took great pride in its school and its enviable reputation and wanted to keep it that way. I knew it would take “large shoes” to fill this position, and that the emerging responsibilities would require the utmost of passionate grittiness of leadership.
Grit is a passion and perseverance for visionary, long-term aspirations. Grit is having stamina and zeal. It is sticking with your vision, day in and day out. After all, educational leadership is not just for the now. Educational leadership affects the very life of each individual – particularly the student, but also the parents, the faculty and the community. The impact is not just for a week or a month, but for years. And the ultimate of leadership requires the grit of patience, competence, fortitude, resilience, commitment and passion – all for the long term. For you see, I knew that grit in leadership is required for the long haul. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
I have found that fear, along with shyness, can paralyze a person. This is true when our health is a factor, or in our world of work, or on social-related issues. So, take on what frightens you; you will experience unbeatable power and strength. Explore uncharted waters, and new opportunities will help you create positive success. That is the grit – zeal, perseverance, passion and determination – that is required for anyone who wishes to explore the infinite world of possibility.
I found that to be true in my first leadership role as principal and in every role that I assumed thereafter.