As leaders in the educational technology space, we are presented with many opportunities to affect learning in the classroom. Decisions that we make can have a lasting impact on the students, staff, and organization with whom we work. Throughout my career as an educator, I have felt frustration stemming from my perception that there was no unified vision or direction to drive our work. It felt as though decisions were made without intention perhaps as a reaction to an event or to the loudest voice in the room. This frustration drove me to be a student of leadership, beginning with my participation in the CETPA CTO Mentor Program. The CTO Mentor Program inspired me to pursue my doctoral studies in organizational leadership and then to participate in the ACSA Superintendent Academy. I tell you this not to brag about my lifelong journey, but to share with you the journey I’m on to be the best leader I can be. An intentional leader. A mindful leader.
“Our intention creates our reality” —Wayne Dyer
Intentionality is defined using the words intentional or deliberate. While it seems obvious, what does that mean? In the context of leadership, I believe it is the intersection of three foci: what needs to be done, developing people, and developing self.
Typically, our focus is on what needs to be done, and there is much to be done—processes, procedures, implementations, project planning, budget maintenance, relationship development with stakeholders (staff, students, community, school board, and colleagues). We come to work each day with a “to do” list of actions to complete, meetings to attend, and phone calls to make. This often leaves us feeling either very accomplished (I crossed everything off my list!) or frustrated due to the interruptions of the day. I refer to this as “losing the forest for the trees.” We always will have things to do…and they will be there the next day waiting for us.
Developing people is much harder than getting things done. The “people” I refer to in this context is our team, the members of the technology services department. This is my favorite area of the work we do. As the leader of this team, we are responsible for ensuring a culture of positivity and professionalism and for helping our team grow. We do this by developing a positive relationship with our team members, through performance reviews that encourage personal and professional growth, and by “walking our talk” (modeling the behavior we wish to see). We must listen attentively and ask questions to engage our teams. Questions such as, “how might we…?” and “what options might we have for…?” promote problem-solving and avoid blame. We must paraphrase their responses for clarity by acknowledging their words—summarizing and shifting abstraction into concrete thoughts. These folks are the boots on the ground and often have great insight into the issues we face.
Finally, we must coach our teammates to grow beyond their current reality (hopefully, they will, in turn, help us grow). We also must be willing to have the hard conversations and meet conflict directly and kindly.
Most importantly, we must focus on developing ourselves as leaders. Leadership development is a journey and all our life experiences—(our story)—develop our character. Our challenges and failures have provided growth opportunities along the way.
Carol Dweck’s research on “growth” versus “fixed” mindsets among individuals and within organizations has inspired my work as a leader. She briefly sums up the findings in an article published in the Harvard Business Review Journal:
“Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts).” (Dweck, 2016).
There happens to be thousands of books on leadership, TED Talks, and YouTube videos that focus on developing the leader within you. Conversations with colleagues, attending conferences, and taking courses are other ways to develop your leadership toolkit. It is so important to feed your own personal growth while doing the leadership work we do each day.
The work we do can be very intense and stressful. We constantly connect to electronics and have pressure coming at us from many sides. It is important that we are mindful—maintaining a present-moment awareness of our thoughts, feeling and surrounding environment. Mindfulness is the intentional nurturing of positive states of mind such as kindness and compassion—paying attention, on purpose, without judgement. Stephen Covey says this well in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989): Habit 7—Sharpen the Saw: “Take time out from production to build production capacity through personal renewal of the physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual dimensions. Maintain a balance among these dimensions.”
I encourage you to take time for yourself: breathe deeply, be in nature, spend time laughing, and allow yourself the space to embrace quiet.
CETPA, CTO Mentor Program. http://cetpa.net/CETPA/Programs/CTO_Mentor/Curriculum.aspx
CoSN, Consortium for School Networking, Framework of Essential Skills of the K-12 CTO. http://www.cosn.org/Framework. November 2017.
Covey, S. (1989). The seven habits of highly effective people. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Dyer, Dr. Wayne W., https://www.drwaynedyer.com/press/seven-secrets-joyful-life/; quote found at https://www.shareyoga.com/yoga/your-future-self-setting-intentions-for-2017/comment-page-1/. November 2017.
Dweck, Carol. What Having a “Growth Mindset” Actually Means. Harvard Business Review. January 13, 2016. https://hbr.org/2016/01/what-having-a-growth-mindset-actually-means. November 2017.
George, Bill (2015). For Leadership, Do You Need a Ladder or a Compass? https://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-george/for-leadership-do-you-nee_b_7997680.html
Mindful: Taking time for what matters. https://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/
Mowat, Andrew. Intentional Leadership. https://twitter.com/ancmowat?lang=en
Editor’s Note: “On It With CETPA” is a regular column that provides a voice to K-20 IT professionals throughout California and is a direct result of the partnership between CUE and CETPA (California Educational Technology Professionals Association). In exchange, CUE leaders write the CUE View, a column that appears in EdTech, CETPA’s Journal.
CETPA President Julie Judd, ED.D is the chief technology officer at the Ventura County Office of Education. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.