The MSBO Leadership Institute Experience

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By: 
Cheryl S. Wald, CPA, CFO, Financial Services Supervisor, Howell Public Schools

MSBO has worked diligently over the last couple of years to create a Leadership program for its members. I am honored to be part of the inaugural cohort group of the MSBO Leadership Institute, which began last fall. Many of us are never trained to be a leader. Typically we are learning while we are performing the technical part of our job and balancing it with the managerial/leadership part. In many cases we have already been managing our staff and other responsibilities. However, transition from management into leadership is a big step. Doing it successfully is critical to making our schools and ourselves the best we can be.

The MSBO Leadership Institute is a year long journey. The program consists of quarterly group meetings, interacting with leaders of today and tomorrow, learning from exceptional leaders from the past, an executive coach, assignments designed around our daily job, and developing our own personal leadership blueprint. The skills being learned are used everyday not only at work, but also in our personal lives.

Working with an executive coach has been both exciting and humbling. Through conversation and discussion, I have been able to discover my life personality preferences and how they influence my leadership style. I have also gained skills to work with difficult people who test my leadership style. Having access to a coach to help me develop my leadership skills and also to help me work through any issues I have at work, has been very valuable.

My cohort group also provides another resource of leaders. I have a new group of colleagues for support. I also have a “dance partner,” which is much like a buddy system. This is one person from the group in which you can interact with and talk to about concerns and issues. We make an effort to keep in touch between our quarterly meetings to talk about our homework assignments, and discuss how we are using the new leadership information we are learning. Reinforcing our skills helps us to continue to grow, learn and become better leaders.

Early in the Leadership Institute, our executive coach shared a quote with us. I found it motivating, and reference it often. The quote is, “Good leaders get things done; great leaders get others to get things done; great, great leaders know why and how they get others to get things done - they have a sense of awareness about themselves and others. They not only know they have chemistry but how to mix the chemicals.” Leadership is learned, just like our technical skills. Making time to work on my skills makes me a better leader for my district. I cannot do this alone. Together we are stronger as we move our districts into unchartered territories.

I have been motivated, encouraged, supported and engaged. I now use the skills and information I have gained on a daily basis. I feel empowered and look forward to the rest of the journey. Leadership is a process and today, the challenges we face are some of the most difficult in our careers. Education is in a cultural transition, and this calls for a leader who looks beyond maintaining the status quo. With the skills gained from the Leadership Institute, I will now have more tools to help me tackle these challenges.