I am constantly thinking about leadership and reflecting on the qualities of an effective leader. I have read many books, attended seminars, and I have even obtained a master’s degree in educational leadership and policy studies. However, after all of my studies, my true model for leadership I met on the day of my birth.
My ultimate model for leadership is my father, Armando Sanchez. My Dad passed away 6 years ago from cancer. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. Here are the qualities of leadership I learned from my father that I strive to embody today in my work as a principal.
Have a clear vision and translate it into action
My Dad only attended school until the third grade in Mexico. As the oldest of 11 children he needed to work and help provide for his family. He had a vision of being a productive contributing member of his family and community. My father didn’t know exactly how the educational system worked or what steps were necessary to have his own children attend college. However, his high expectations for how we represented ourselves in school, in the community, and at work, demonstrated his belief in our capabilities to be our best. His vision for his children to obtain a higher standard of living wasn’t just rooted in economics. He also wanted to ensure we were making a positive difference in the lives of others.
My Dad immigrated to the United States from Mexico at the age of 18. He put himself in situations where he could learn English and understood the importance of stepping out of his comfort zone in order to grow and learn. After many years of working in the service and farming industries, he ventured into the world of business as an entrepreneur by opening a menswear business with his brothers in 1980. While many businesses closed their doors during periods of recessions, his business remained open and remains so to this day. He helped form the first Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in our community in the 1980’s and served as President. Dad wasn’t afraid of taking the lead and trying something new to benefit his family or community.
Treat others with dignity and respect
Dad’s interactions with others were always respectful and dignified. For my father, there was never an excuse not to treat people this way and it was unacceptable if you did anything, but act this way towards others. This was the essence of being “educated” in my father’s eyes. Although he valued formal education, the true mark of an educated person in his view, was demonstrated in the treatment of other people.
Dad had a work ethic that propelled him to do his best no matter what the circumstances. I can remember when he took a second job working in a warehouse during periods of slow economic times with his business. He worked 7 days a week often times more than 12 hours a day. I learned through him that working hard meant giving your all without complaining. I realized very early on that he was making sacrifices for our well-being. I knew that I benefited from my father’s hard work and that I needed to do the same as a member of our family.
Stay calm and breathe
Dad embodied strength and calmness and never lashed out or lost his cool. If something got heated, he would simply take a step back. In moments of crisis or worry, he never acted as if things were out of control. This was his standard mode of operation until the moment he took his last breath. He was diagnosed with cancer on September 25th and was told he had just weeks to live. He died on October 20th. He never strayed from this sense of calm. He stayed the course and was resolute in his decision to fight the battle in the same way he lived his life.
When I connect to my origins of leadership on a deep level, it renews and inspires me. Reflecting on the leadership lessons of my father inspires me to keep moving forward in doing what’s right for kids. It grounds me to my deeper purpose. When I walk around with his examples in my mind and heart, I am reminded about the power of his legacy and I live in a space of abundance and gratitude.
Think about your origins of leadership. Who were those individuals that modeled leadership in your life? How do they continue to inspire and move your work forward as a school leader? How do you embody those values to transform your school environment into a place where all kids, staff members, and community members can thrive?
How do we connect kids to their models of leadership? I don’t mean the sports heroes or iconic legends they read about in books or see on T.V. I am referring to the leaders in their families, classrooms, and surrounding communities. I believe this is where we can transform lives and empower kids to recognize the beauty and power of what resides in their everyday life.
It has made all of the difference for me.