I do not envy school leaders today. It was hard enough to lead school systems and orgs. serving young people before the pandemic. Today— hands down, leading an org that teaches and cares for other people’s children is by far the most difficult position one can be in right now.
I’ve had to lead through deep division, internal politics, and limited resources. When that’s the case, you can overthink things and hold up decisions, leaving your teams feeling disempowered to create change. I know what it feels like to WANT to do better, but not know WHAT to do in order to course-correct negative momentum and low morale.
Leaders have to find the courage and confidence to lead their entire organization toward the ultimate vision, even when you don’t hold all the data you feel like you need to make a decision. You have to make one, and in those moments, you use your gut.
Before I even knew what a turnaround principal was, I was leading schools by listening to my heart and gut. I would reflect on the voices and stories I’d hear within the community and do a gut check. I’d do what I’d want to be done for my own children.
Quick decision-making based solely on my gut reaction to things made all the difference in my leadership. Especially when it came to managing people. Looks like Jeff Bezos agrees with making decisions based on gut checks, too.
Truth be told, I led with my heart and my gut often. The feeling I’d get when I knew I was doing the right thing, could not be matched by survey results, data analysis, or after-action reviews. Even when my decisions were unpopular, unconventional, or unheard of, my gut was the only data needed.
Certainly one can say a “gut check” is not data-informed. However, let’s not forget, leadership is a people business. Even when all the data forecasts a nightmare ahead, it may simply feel like the right thing to do. And in those cases (especially when decisions can be made quickly and can be reversed fairly easily— as Mr. Amazon puts it), doing what feels right IS the correct course of action.
Leadership is influence, and people are most influenced when their hearts are connected and actively engaged. The work has gotta mean something for them, and for you too! By using your gut as your leadership compass, your body won’t lie to you as your mind will.
Use this link to download my free Gut Check CheatSheet.