summer bucket list

The Hidden Leader’s Ultimate Summer Bucket List

I absolutely love lists. I love to-do lists, to-read lists, to-dream lists. There is something particularly appealing about “bucket lists.” They have a meaningful excitement to them that reminds us that time is finite. Because the summer months are especially fleeting, I write a bucket list every year for my family. I post it right on my fridge on Memorial Day.

Lists like this help us focus on the things that matter. For my family, it’s watching sunsets and staying up late to see rocket launches. Camping in our backyard, spontaneous road trips, and lots of ice cream and sushi. Any list-lover will tell you that time is everything—use it wisely.

Right now, summer stretches before you in all of its finite glory. And if you haven’t read Kylene Beers’ beautiful letter to teachers to go ahead and embrace their truest self this summer, then read that first. It’s healing.

Then, recharge your momentum and find your hidden leader in the next two months. There is nothing extraordinary on this list. I have found that the most meaningful experiences challenge and teach us in the simplest of ways.

1. Choose to be imperfect.

If you toss and turn at night, replaying conversations and wishing you could redo a part of your day, then you will be pleasantly surprised to know that you are not alone. Even the most confident leaders fear they said or did the wrong thing.

When you fall short this summer, acknowledge the discomfort, and move on. Embrace imperfection by fully accepting your story reel each day, bloopers and all. Don’t waste time trying to edit your mistakes; more forward instead. Start by saying to yourself, “That didn’t go as planned. Let’s see what happens next.”

2.  Focus on joy.

There is just not enough of this. Take time this summer to find out what exactly brings you joy—and what takes it away.

3. Get strategic about something you care about.

There is never going to be a perfect time to take action. Start now. Choose one goal that is deeply important to you and set a plan. Truly commit by asking these two critical questions:

  • Why do I want this?
  • What is the very first thing I have to do to get there?

4.  Read

Read to reset your compass. Books remind us what matters. Start with our summer book list or revisit an old favorite that inspires you just by running your fingers over the worn binding.

Rediscover picture books to gain new perspective on leadership and the kind of leader you want to be. Read Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon. Learn what it means to truly embrace imperfection from Molly Lou Melon: a clumsy, buck-toothed, bullied child who doesn’t let anyone shake her belief in herself.

5.  Do one thing that scares you.

Do you have a chicken list? Move at least one thing from that list to your summer bucket agenda. In Beers’ letter to teachers, she tells us to “Find something you can’t do and try. Try and fail. And remember how that feels.”

The other important thing about failing is that you create stories in the process. Leaders need stories, more than anything, to convince others that they have been where others have been. Experience struggle this summer, and be ready to share what it feels like when you are encouraging others to jump into the arena.

6.  Find a new way to manage stress.

It’s impossible to tackle the biggest challenges when stress takes over. Take time this summer to really notice how you respond to stress and make a point to change your reaction. Resolve to keep this in place beyond the summer. Don’t allow “feeling stressed” to become your normal.

7.  Write another bucket list for the upcoming year.

The interesting thing about bucket lists is that it’s not really about what’s on the paper. It’s the idea of looking forward. The compelling reason to get up and lead, even when you feel uninspired or when making progress seems daunting. As you prepare for a new school year, go beyond your usual to-do, to-make, and to-plan lists. Write one more list. Because what you are really writing is your story. Make the chapters matter. 

Comment and tell us what is on your own summer bucket list. How will you find your hidden leader this summer?

Ali

Ali

I am a lifelong educator on a mission to start believing in myself. I write to inspire others to abandon perfection and lead anyway. I am attempting this daily at home as a mom with three toddlers in Berlin, Maryland.
Ali

 

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summer books

10 Books Every Hidden Leader Needs To Read This Summer

          Summer is a great time to redefine yourself as a leader. You can make small changes or completely transform yourself.  If September is a fresh beginning, the summer months are for deciding what kind of beginning you want for yourself.

If you are looking for more joy, bravery or meaning:

leading with imperfection

Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu have been tested by great personal and national adversity, in their book, The Book of Joy, they share their personal stories of struggle and hope. According to them, joy is more than just plain happiness; it’s a state of being. Read their stories and teachings about joy, examine the most recent findings in the science of happiness, and uncover the daily practices that anchor their own emotional and spiritual lives.

 

leading with imperfectionDoes being afraid stop you from being your best self? Adam Kirk Smith explores the 10 most common fears in The Bravest You. With stories and examples, Smith examines the foundation of fear and how to use 5 easy steps to not necessarily overcome the fears, but bravely face them and learn more about who you are and what you are able to accomplish. Discover newfound bravery and the confidence to find your passion and live an extraordinary life.

 

leading with imperfection

In a world obsessed with happiness, why are so many people miserable? Emily Esfahani Smith ask us to examine three questions: What makes life worth living? How do people find meaning in their everyday lives? And how can we build cultures of meaning that allow us to thrive? The Power of Meaning offers a new perspective and a toolkit to help you achieve a life of greater depth and significance.

 

If you want to completely change the way you lead others:

leading with imperfectionPeter DeWitt understands what it takes to build collaborative leadership in schools. He aligns the work of John Hattie’s Visible Learning to school leadership and integrates his own experience, best practices, and research to empower school leaders. In his book, Collaborative Leadership, he provides leaders with strategies to strengthen their practice and build their team’s collective efficacy.

 

leading with imperfection

What’s standing between you and your potential? In The Leadership Gap, Lolly Daskal reveals an interesting and insightful system of how we lead and the gaps associated with our strongest leadership styles. Once you have identified your leadership style and it’s gaps, you can begin to grow towards a better and more efficient leader. You’ll be inspired and invigorated as well as informed.

 

 

Daring Greatly is dense with information on how to combat shame and become leading with imperfectionvulnerable, authentic, and courageous – not just in personal relationships, but at work and with your children as well. Dr. Brené Brown offers a vision that encourages us to dare greatly: to embrace vulnerability and imperfection, to live wholeheartedly, and to courageously engage in our lives. A must read for anyone who feels a bit closed off from the world and/or the best parts of themselves.

If you want to be inspired by real-life leadership:

leading with imperfection

Turn the Ship Around! is a true story of how a US Navy Nuclear Submarine Commander changed from a “Leader-Follower” style of leadership to a “Leader-Leader” style, where everyone is a leader and is fully engaged in the decision-making for the ship. L. David Marquet offers guidelines to create a workplace where everyone around you is taking responsibility for their actions, where people are healthier and happier, where everyone is a leader.

 

leading with imperfection

In Victor Frankl’s memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl examines how the pursuit of meaning allowed him and so many others to endure one of the most difficult burdens in human history: a Nazi concentration camp. Frankl’s story teaches us how anyone can choose to make meaning out of any situation, no matter how bad things are. After reading it you’ll see your own challenges in a different light.

 

leading with imperfection

 Both heartbreaking and heartwarming, this memoir about the J. D. Vances’s journey from a troubled, addiction-torn Appalachian family to Yale Law School, Hillbilly Elegy is shocking, gut-wrenching, and hysterically funny. The image that emerges is a complex one and is the cry of a nation in crisis. It is a call to action for greater self-knowledge and personal responsibility.

 

In this rivleading with imperfectioneting memoir, Hand to Mouth, LindaTirado shares in vivid detail what it’s like to be a college graduate in the throes of poverty. Raising important questions surrounding the distribution of wealth in American, she drives home the struggles that so many of our population deal with on a daily basis throughout their lives.  Hand to Mouth is a quick read that could change your perspective or further illuminate what you already know.

Download our summer reading list to take with you to the library or save on your desktop to go directly to Amazon.

Happy Reading!

Ali

Ali

I am a lifelong educator on a mission to start believing in myself. I write to inspire others to abandon perfection and lead anyway. I am attempting this daily at home as a mom with three toddlers in Berlin, Maryland.
Ali

 

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3 reasons why

3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Start a Blog (and Why We Ignored Them)

3 reasons why“Sometimes when we dare to walk into the arena, the greatest critic we face is ourselves.”

~Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly

When you finally decide to venture into the arena, you walk a very fine line between courage and panic. Here I am, an almost-leader, thinking I have enough experience about leadership to write about it–and actually hit publish. In the weeks leading up to the start of this journey, the critic inside my head was relentless.

I tried to silence the critic by reminding myself why I am here. I thought about the many hidden leaders in education. I wanted to give them a voice. I was excited by the idea that we could call others to leadership by writing about it as something that absolutely can, and always will be, imperfect. Still, the doubt, fear, and excuses flooded in. It felt easier not to hit publish at all.

It turns out that I was not alone in my self-doubt. When I listened carefully to the dedicated educators around me, I heard things like this:

“There are so many better candidates for that position. I don’t think I’m going to apply.”

“I just don’t feel like what I’m doing is making a difference.”

“I’m not strong enough/smart enough/tall enough to be a leader.”

(Actually, “tall enough” came from me. I’m 4’11 and I used to think this all the time.)

And then a mentor of mine who works outside of the teaching profession shared a confession with me: She said she has always wanted to start her own business, but it was on her “I want to, but I’m too chicken” list. I couldn’t stop thinking about that. How many of us have a list like this? How long are these lists? Why do they even exist?

So many of us feel insecure, inexperienced…and imperfect. Maybe this is the reason so many leaders remain hidden in the first place. There were endless reasons to avoid starting this blog. Here are the three that whisper in my ear the loudest and why I (all of us) should stop listening:

  1. Nobody will read it/approve/support your work/care.

This might be true. However, I like to think of that well-known phrase that was adapted from the movie Field of Dreams. “If you build it, they will come.” Except my own personal adaptation goes like this:

If you build it, they might come, and even if they don’t, at least you’ve built something.

Success is about getting started, not about lack of failure. This reminds me of my painfully slow 5K when I first started running. I jogged into the finish line while the race organizers were cleaning up the refreshment table. I was deeply embarrassed by this until a friend noticed my shame. She asked, “Do you know how many people are still sleeping?”

Get started. That’s all that matters.

 Shorten your chicken list: Reframe how you look at criticism. Instead of letting it define you, celebrate the fact that you pushed your limits. You will not get criticized or rejected when you stay inside your comfort zone.

      2.  Your ideas will not inspire others.

Drew Dudley, founder of Everyday Leadership, has a very down-to-earth perspective on what it means to be a leader. His TED talk on Everyday Leadership explains how simple it really is to make a difference. We may be overlooking and devaluing the impact we have on others. He said, “We’ve made leadership about changing the world, and there is no world. There’s only six billion understandings of it.”

Of those 6 or so billion, you only need to change one. If you can inspire one student to feel like an author, one colleague to try teaching for another year, one administrator to stick with a vision even when it gets difficult, then according to Dudley, “You’ve changed the whole thing.”

Shorten your chicken list: Pull out your “feel good” folder, and if you don’t have one, start one now. Keep every letter of thanks, student card, principal compliment, or parent email that celebrates your everyday leadership. Reread them anytime you need a reminder that inspiring others is not something that is beyond you.

       3.  You might fail.

I used to have this misconception that leaders had all the answers. You have to know what you are talking about. All the time. What does it even mean to know enough, to be good enough? Nobel prize winner physicist, Niels Bohr, defines an expert as “…someone who has made all possible mistakes in one field and there are no more to make.”

I don’t think I’ve heard a more appealing invitation to fail over and over again. If we look at mistakes as the necessary training for expert status, we might stop trying so hard to avoid them.

Shorten your chicken list: Before you take action, predict three potential ways you can fail. Say them out loud, and then ask yourself, “If I make these mistakes, what is the worst that could happen?” The answer to this question might surprise you.

If you wait until you are fully ready for something, you will never get started. This isn’t about creating a blog, being a writer, or even leadership. It’s about starting. Imperfection is guaranteed. Take one thing from your “I really want to but I’m just too chicken” list and do it anyway.

Is there something that you’ve always wanted to do—but haven’t yet? Tell us about it! Your first step starts right now.

 

Ali

Ali

I am a lifelong educator on a mission to start believing in myself. I write to inspire others to abandon perfection and lead anyway. I am attempting this daily at home as a mom with three toddlers in Berlin, Maryland.
Ali

 

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Lead Like A Mother

There is no doubt that mothers are the glue that holds it all together. Perhaps Kelly Corrigan said it best in her novel Glitter and Glue:

“The mother is the most essential piece on the board, the one you must protect. Only she has the range. Only she can move in multiple directions. Once she’s gone, it’s a whole different game.”Lead Like A Mother

Mothers really are the true game changers. You can almost feel the power mothers provide for us all, and for those who are living without their mother—the loss is profound.

These hidden leaders are an infinite source of wisdom on how to lead others with compassion, humility, and love. These qualities don’t always make the list of top leadership traits, but they should. When we started this blog, we wanted to celebrate the raw, unpolished, not-sure-I’m-doing-this-right kind of leadership. The way mothers lead.

Here are three ways to start leading like a mother:

     1. Lead with love.

When it comes down to great leadership, love is always the bottom line. Some of the most successful corporations have built a culture around relationships. This culture is very similar to the way mothers love their children. They love them through setbacks and celebrations; they love and accept flaws without blinking.

I learned the power of this love from my supervisor. She loves the people she leads relentlessly. She clearly sees a person’s strengths and weaknesses, and chooses compassion every single time. Working for her feels like home.

Leaders who love are more likely to see the best in the people around them—and this makes all the difference.

     2. Give the credit away.

Moms are selfless with their children and the thought of taking credit—for anything—never crosses their minds. I watched a mom in my neighborhood clear leaves from her yard while trying to keep her 3-year-old son busy. He got bored after awhile and started placing one leaf at a time in the wheelbarrow. When her husband pulled in the driveway, he complimented the cleared yard. The mom beamed at her son and said with sincerity, “I couldn’t have done this without you!”

While it may come naturally for mothers, leading so selflessly takes a vast amount of humility and self-discipline. It takes a conscious decision-making on the part of the leader to give the credit away.

Humility inspires others to want to be even better. It builds momentum instead of slowing progress. Practice humility in your brightest moments by asking, “Who supported this vision? Who pushed through when it got difficult?”

Here are some ways to give credit (and inspire) others:

We wouldn’t have finished without your help.

You were so important to this project.

I couldn’t have done this without you.

     3.  Forgive yourself.

One of my favorite quotes about motherhood came from writer Donna Ball: “Forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” Motherhood is beautifully messy, and as soon as I embraced this myself, everything started falling into place.

Fear of failure prevents so many people from stepping into leadership and starting the journey. Leadership is about getting started, and we learn so much more when we make mistakes than when we sit around and wait for perfection. Let yourself be imperfect.

If you will be leading others (and we all do, in some way or another), try embracing the qualities of nature’s best nurturer. Love those you lead and empower them with all of the credit. And please, forgive yourself.

Ali

Ali

Ali

I am a lifelong educator on a mission to start believing in myself. I write to inspire others to abandon perfection and lead anyway. I am attempting this daily at home as a mom with three toddlers in Berlin, Maryland.
Ali

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Celebrating Imperfection

Celebrating Imperfection

Someone, at some point, came up with this very bad idea that an ordinary individual couldn’t make a difference in the world. I think that’s just a horrible thing.” —John Skoll

 

What if you could go through each day without replaying every misstep before you fell asleep at night? What if we told ourselves that we were absolutely good enough? What if we could shift the way we view our imperfections?

Our schools and our communities need all educators to see themselves as leaders in some way. As the true gladiators of our time, teachers have an opportunity to embrace leadership while still trying to find their way.  Since when did being a leader mean that you have to have all the answers? It’s time to stop pretending that leadership is reserved for a select few outside of the classroom.

A leader doesn’t need a title, a degree or sign outside their door. A leader hides in all of us. Let’s stop making leadership something bigger than it is. Because when we do that, when we devalue everyday leadership, 99% of us take a step back instead of charging into the arena.

In a culture that demands the impossible, nobody can do this alone. We know that together is better. That’s why we teamed up to write Leading with Imperfection. We wonder what could happen if we remove the burden of perfection and find joy and strength in good enough.

The timing is imperfect. Step into the arena.

 

 

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