For this week’s blog, I am going off the road of general leadership but staying on the leadership map. Today, I would like to take a small side trip and talk about the educational leadership side of teaching.

Let’s start with this quote from Epictetus (Roman Teacher/Philosopher, 55-135, AD)…



Foundation of Excellence: “Tentative efforts lead to tentative outcomes. Therefore give yourself fully to your endeavors. Decide to consult your character through excellent actions and determine to pay the price of a worthy goal. The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths. Remain steadfast – and one day you will build something that endures: something worthy of your potential.”


I believe the question that can be asked of the quote is, “What are the foundations of our teaching/leadership* building?” I have a few thoughts…

*While discussing this idea, you can at any time switch out the words teaching and leading/leadership, because I think both, in essence, are the same.

To build anything, we must know the personalities of all involved. What are the personalities of those we teach? What makes them tick? When we understand who we are teaching first, our teaching becomes much more effective; understanding that leading is not about us but others. Learn who your people are.

We must also be consistent with our teaching. I have never seen a foundation made for a structure that is not consistent. Inconsistent foundations will not hold up and support what is being built. It reflects the “tentative efforts” part of the quote… for we will obtain “tentative outcomes.” Overall, one of the main problems teachers have is not being consistent with their day-to-day methods; how they teach, how they manage.

Your foundation is your foundation. No one else can build it for you. Now, there are some great teachers who are very deserving to model, and it does us well to emulate some of their teaching characteristics, if and only if those characteristics can work for you. However, a common mistake of many teachers, young and experienced, is always copying and not being yourself. Be you and adapt and adjust depending on the environment. The worse thing you can do is be hard-headed. “My way or the highway” is not good teaching or leadership.

Great teachers are willing to try new approaches. The worst six words with regards to any leadership are, “We have always done it this way.” Just because the “manual” says this is the way to do it, does not make it the only way. As teachers, we have to find what works and connects to our audience. Only when both are established can we bring our efforts “fully to our endeavors.”

Lastly, I believe great teachers are willing and want to keep learning. There is nothing more disappointing than seeing a teacher who is either contented or disheartened. Go back to the “tentative efforts” part of the quote. Experience does matter, but not to the extent of believing you know it all. We can always learn something new.

Great leaders are aware of not only who they are but also who everyone else is and the environment surrounding them. This is an ongoing process that is rooted in servant-leadership. Start today building that foundation of excellence.  Be that person and when you are, referring to the quote, “one day you will build something that endures: something worthy of your potential.”

©2019 J Clay Norton

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