How leaders distinguish themselves during tough times.
Nineteen years into his career as an art teacher, John Schuler was frustrated. He loved being a teacher, but knew changes needed to be made at his middle school; changes to make it a better place to teach and learn.
So John did what a lot of people do – he complained. He complained to his co-workers, his wife and to upper management. Nothing changed.
It’s the act of becoming the person others will want to follow.
Instead of waiting for things to get better or settling for less, John decided to improve the situation at the school by first improving himself.
“I decided to spend one year doing everything I could to work for positive change, and then, if a year later I was still unhappy, I would leave and do something else,” John said. “I wanted to be a ‘force for good.’ I decided to make it a year of self-improvement and I kept a log of all the changes I was making.”
John did everything “by the book” – making sure he was at work on time, dressing more professionally, organizing professional develop efforts, helping upper management, improving curriculum and volunteering for projects.
As John Maxwell says, “If you can become the leader you ought to be on the inside, you will be able to become the person you want on the outside. People will want to follow you. And when that happens, you’ll be able to tackle anything in this world.”
John’s new attitude and hard work were recognized, and he was asked to direct the search committee for new leadership. Other leadership opportunities opened, and John continued to find ways to improve in his job, including taking courses on being an administrator. Two short years later, John became principal of his middle school.
Now in the 28th year of his school career, John is proud of his school’s progress. His school has become the area model on how to handle student discipline and on ways to encourage teachers to engage in professional development through professional learning communities.
With his newly completed doctorate, the 51-year-old is looking for a new challenge and has decided to go back to his roots: teaching. John will be an adjunct professor at the University of Central Missouri, teaching principal preparation and leadership technology management.
When John looks back at his year of being a force for good, he realizes what he was really doing was practicing servant leadership.
“I realized there was this huge gap in me that I could fill with negative or positive energy,” John said. “And I remembered how important servant leadership is to me.
“My job as a leader is to serve others. Once I dedicated my life to improving myself so I could serve others, that’s when my life, which was already good, got better.”