Lead with Heart

Although branding one’s space relies heavily on matters of the mind, without a direct connection to the heart and soul of the organization, there is no real story to tell.” Excerpt from Power of Branding by Tony Sinanis and Joseph Sanfelippo

As a leadership team in Buhler Schools, we’re making “branding” a focus for 2016. Branding may conjure up images of Coca-Cola cursive font, slogans like “Just Do It,” and Cam Newton dabbing it up after a touchdown in the Super Bowl. While those icons are certainly symbolic of branding, branding your school or district is much, much simpler. It’s as simple as telling your school’s story….frequently, publicly, and most importantly, with heart.

To brand your school or district with heart, you must lead with heart. Leading with heart is a concept I became familiar with while reading The Power of Branding by Tony Sinanis and Joseph Sanfelippo. ***Sidenote: This book is soooo good that I’ve read it twice in the last six months.*** To lead with heart, one has to develop a deep understanding of what is at the core of his/her school or district. One must know exactly what breathes life into his/her own work and the work of those he/she serves. For us in Buhler Schools, culture, collaboration, and innovation are at the core of who we are as leaders and are what breathe life into our work. We know this, routinely talk about it, and capture examples of each when telling our story. Whether it’s a casual conversation with a prospective family, a tweet during a classroom observation, or polishing off a staff meeting with bucket-fillers, these are the rocks in the story we are writing.

Leading with heart is certainly a perspective but its power lies in daily actions. Here’s an example from me as a building principal.

Celebrate! At the heart of our school’s culture is our commitment to celebrating our students. We celebrate students’ daily awesomeness via Twitter at #UVlearn. Below is a “Hard Work Selfie” tweet where a young man was “sent to the office” to showcase his exceptional performance in class. The second Hard Work Selfie spontaneously happened with a student displaying leadership in the lunchroom.

We also recognize students’ behavioral growth, leadership, and social-emotional awesomeness through the distinction, Captain/Captina of Character. Staff members, from teachers to paras to custodians, nominate students that go above and beyond the Character Ed call of duty. They do this by emailing me and I then recognize the student the next day at our school-wide morning assembly. We have recognized almost 30 different Captains/Captinas of Character this school year. These are two ways we tell our school’s story and extend our belief that kids and their progress are worthy of celebration. These actions clearly demonstrate that kids are the main characters in our story and their awesomeness is our ongoing theme!

Leading with heart is a concept worth living and definitely one worth sharing. Several times throughout the month, I will update this blog to include additional examples of leading with heart. However, we’d be falling short as tribe if we didn’t extend this concept further. Therefore, I declare February “Lead with Heart Month.” We will all greatly benefit as leaders to know how you lead with heart. Please use #leadwithheart this month to share YOUR examples on Twitter. Your story is worth telling. Now start telling it with heart!

***Motivation and inspiration for this blog post came from Tony Sinanis and Joe Sanfelippo. In their book, Power of Branding, they present the compelling concept of leading with heart. I highly recommend it to any teacher, principal, or district leader.***