Sunday, March 5, 2023

The Importance of Saying 'No' for Effective Leadership

Leadership is often associated with the ability to say 'yes' to new opportunities, challenges, and responsibilities. However, the ability to say 'no' can be just as important for effective leadership. Saying 'no' can help leaders to prioritize their time, energy, resources, and to avoid overcommitting themselves or the people they lead.

The ability to say 'no' is important for effective time management. Leaders who are constantly saying 'yes' to new requests and demands can quickly become overwhelmed and burnt out. By saying 'no' to non-essential tasks or projects, leaders can focus their time and energy on the tasks and projects that are most important and have the greatest impact.

Saying 'no' can also help leaders to set clear boundaries and expectations with their team. Leaders who are always saying 'yes' to new requests or ideas may give the impression that they are always available or willing to take on more work, which can lead to unrealistic expectations or a lack of respect for the leader's time and resources. By saying 'no' when necessary, leaders can communicate their limits and expectations clearly, and encourage their staff to do the same.

Furthermore, saying 'no' can help leaders to avoid overpromising and underdelivering. Leaders who say 'yes' to every opportunity or request may find themselves spread too thin, and may not be able to deliver on all of their commitments. This can damage their credibility and reputation, and can harm their team's morale and productivity. By saying 'no' when necessary, leaders can avoid overcommitting themselves or their team, and can ensure that they are able to deliver on their promises and commitments.

Of course, saying 'no' is not always easy, especially for leaders who want to be seen as helpful, accommodating, in alignment with district initiatives, and/or team-oriented. However, it is important for leaders to recognize that saying 'no' is not a sign of weakness or selfishness, but rather a sign of good judgment and strategic thinking. Leaders who are able to say 'no' when necessary can demonstrate their ability to prioritize, manage their time effectively, and communicate their expectations clearly.

In the context of the Ontario Leadership Framework, the ability to say 'no' can be seen as connected to "setting directions and priorities." Effective leaders are able to set clear goals and priorities, and to make strategic decisions about how to allocate their time, resources, and energy. Saying 'no' when necessary is important because it allows leaders to make informed and strategic decisions about what to focus on, and what to delegate or decline.

In conclusion, saying 'no' is an important aspect of effective leadership, and should be embraced and cultivated by leaders who want to prioritize their time, energy, and resources, set clear boundaries and expectations, and avoid overpromising and underdelivering. By saying 'no' when necessary, leaders can demonstrate their ability to make strategic decisions and communicate their expectations clearly, and can ensure that they are able to deliver on their promises and commitments.

Monday, January 9, 2023

The Role of Vulnerability in Effective Leadership

Leadership is often associated with strength, confidence, and decisiveness. While these qualities are important, they can also create a barrier that prevents leaders from connecting with their team and creating a sense of trust. This is where vulnerability comes in.

Vulnerability is often seen as a weakness, but in reality, it takes a great deal of courage to be vulnerable. It involves being open and honest about your weaknesses, fears, and insecurities. When leaders are able to embrace vulnerability, it can create a sense of authenticity and humanity that is essential for building trust and connection with others.

One of the key benefits of vulnerability in leadership is that it allows leaders to be more approachable and relatable. When leaders show that they are not perfect and are open to feedback and learning from their mistakes, it encourages team members to do the same. This creates a culture of continuous learning and improvement, rather than one of fear and perfectionism.

Vulnerability can also help leaders to be more empathetic and understanding towards their team. When leaders are able to share their own struggles and challenges, it can create a sense of solidarity and encourage team members to open up and share their own experiences. This can foster a sense of connection and support within the team, which can have a positive impact on morale and productivity.

With respect to the Ontario Leadership Framework, one of the key dispositions outlined in the framework is the ability to "build trusting relationships through honesty, transparency, and vulnerability." This suggests that vulnerability is seen as an important aspect of effective leadership within the context of the Ontario Leadership Framework. By being open and honest about their weaknesses and insecurities, leaders are able to build trust and connection with others, which is essential for creating a positive and collaborative team environment.

Of course, vulnerability is not a one-size-fits-all approach. It is important for leaders to find the right balance and to be mindful of the context in which they are sharing their vulnerabilities. For example, a leader may choose to be more vulnerable in a team meeting or one-on-one coaching session, rather than in a public presentation.

Vulnerability is an important aspect of effective leadership. It allows leaders to be more approachable, relatable, and empathetic, which can foster a sense of trust and connection with their team. By embracing vulnerability, leaders can create a culture of continuous learning and improvement, and build strong and supportive relationships with their team.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Leadership Pro Tip: Take Time to Self-Rreflect

As a leader, you are constantly faced with challenges and opportunities that require you to make tough decisions. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day hustle and focus solely on achieving your goals, but taking the time to reflect on your actions and behaviors is crucial for your personal and professional growth.

Self-reflection allows you to step back and assess how you’re doing, both as an individual and as a leader. It helps you identify areas where you’re excelling and areas where you may need to improve. By actively engaging in self-reflection, you can become more self-aware, which can lead to better decision-making, improved communication, and stronger relationships with your team.

One way to practice self-reflection is to set aside dedicated time for it on a regular basis. This could be a daily or weekly ritual, or even just a few moments at the end of each day to reflect on your actions and thoughts. You can also try journaling, podcasting, or sketch-noting, which can act as helpful tools for organizing your thoughts and tracking your progress over time.

It’s important to be honest with yourself during self-reflection. This means acknowledging your strengths, as well as your weaknesses. By acknowledging your weaknesses, you can work to improve upon them and become a more well-rounded leader.

Another aspect of self-reflection is considering how your actions and behaviors impact those around you. As a leader, your actions and decisions have a ripple effect on the team you work with and the overall culture of your organization. By reflecting on the impact of your actions, you can make sure you’re leading in a way that aligns with your values and the values of the team.

In addition to personal growth, self-reflection can also improve your leadership skills and increase your effectiveness as a leader. By regularly reflecting on your actions and behaviors, you can gain insights into what’s working and what’s not, and make adjustments as needed. This can help you become a more agile leader who is able to adapt to changing circumstances and lead a team through challenges.

Self-reflection can also help you stay grounded and centered as a leader. It’s easy to get caught up in the demands and pressures of leadership, but taking the time to reflect on your values and priorities can help you stay focused and true to yourself.

With respect to The Ontario Leadership Framework, self-reflection is one of the competencies within the framework, and it is described as the ability to "reflect on and evaluate one's own thoughts, feelings, and actions, and to learn from experience."

By engaging in self-reflection, leaders can develop their understanding of their own leadership style, strengths, and areas for improvement. This in turn can help them to become more effective leaders, as they are able to make informed decisions, communicate effectively, and build strong relationships with their team.

Self-reflection is also connected to other competencies within the Ontario Leadership Framework, such as emotional intelligence, which involves being aware of and managing one's own emotions and the emotions of others, and continuous learning, which involves seeking out opportunities to learn and grow. All of these competencies work together to support effective leadership and help leaders to adapt to changing circumstances and lead their teams through challenges.

Overall, self-reflection is an important component of the Ontario Leadership Framework, as it helps leaders to understand themselves, build self-awareness, and continually improve their leadership skills.

Self-reflection is an essential practice for any leader. It allows you to become more self-aware, improve your leadership skills, and stay centered and true to your values. By setting aside dedicated time for self-reflection and being honest with yourself, you can continue to grow and evolve as a leader. So, it is always good to make self-reflection a regular part of your leadership routine.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

What are you going to do? A Leadership Recipe for Success

It doesn't matter where you work, what your title is, or what you do, you can lead. You can be one of the people that others look to for guidance, modelling, and/or answers. Whether others look to you or not, you'll have to make decisions, whether it's on your own or collaboratively. Improve yourself and your leadership by improving your leadership skills, understanding your locus of control, knowing what your core values are, and being authentic to yourself and others.


Want to improve upon your leadership skills, check out the graphic below.

There are tons of resources on the internet that you can find and use to develop your leadership skills and mindset. Don't want to do this alone? Reach out to 2-3 leaders you respect/admire and ask them to mentor you. How do they lead? What do they do when decisions need to be made? A couple of questions for you to reflect on as you observe and learn.

Read, listen, watch, what you need to do to grow and develop. 

When they look at you, what are you going to do? When something goes wrong, what are you going to do? When you see an injustice, what are you going to do?

Know what is in your control and start from there. 

You certainly don't want "...a lifetime of frustration and misery." so take advantage of what is in your control - how you treat others, how you treat yourself, and how you think and feel. Set yourself up so that you can push away the things you can't control (how others treat each other, how others treat you, how others feel) as you respond to a situation. 


Know what you value, communicate that to others in your actions and your words. Make them a priority and know that when you honor them and live by them, it will reduce chaos in your mind and help you sleep better at night. 

Not sure what you value or struggle to name them? Check out this great list by Brene Brown. As you learn and unlearn on your journey, your values could change. So it's important that you revist and reflect on them often.


Last but not least, if you if you don't know what to do, don't pretend like you know. Don't ignore the situation. Do something. Even it means declaring that you are unsure, you are doing something. 

I totally disagree with faking it until you make it. How about you acknowledge where you are and make a plan that will help you learn and/or understand something better. Here is a great article on alternatives to faking it until making it. 


Take time to reflect on where you are at on your leadership journey and what you can do to boost yourself. It doesn't matter what your role is, improving your leadership skills, understanding your locus of control, knowing what your core values are, and being authentic to yourself and others is going to benefit you no matter where you are or what you do. What are you going to do? You are going to get better!

If you are an Ontario educator and interested in a formal leadership position, make sure to check out the Ontario Leadership Framework or the Ontario Catholic Leadership Framework. Become familiar with the framework, reflect on the work you do and whether it aligns with the framework, do the work and connect it to the framework!! 

Reach out if you have questions/comments.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Leadership Actions

Anyone can talk about being a leader. Talk is good - it's a step in the right direction - but action is needed. 

From my perspective, there are all kinds of things I can do to grow as a leader. 

First and foremost, I believe it is important that I do things that I am interested in. Learning how to lead is best accomplished when it is connected to something I am passionate about and willing to invest my time and energy in. 

My interests in leveraging technology, the use of social media, and diversity, equity, and inclusion have provided me with ample opportunities to learn and lead. Using my interests as a foundation, I have been developing my leadership skills by practicing discipline, taking on more at advanced levels, inspiring others, being open to learning and unlearning, and networking to build a variety of relationships and connections. 

The leadership work directly connected with my interests have allowed me to apply what I am learning to areas that I don't necessarily have interests in but are necessary in my line of work. As a formal leader, there are lots of areas that require leadership so picking and choosing where and when to lead isn't an option. When decisions need to be made, and action needs to be taken, there is no room to waiver. 

The more familiar I can be with the basics, the more automatic it will be for me to apply my knowledge and skills when I am faced with any opportunity to make decisions and take the lead in situations/activities. 

What matters most is that I am engaging in constant learning and reflection on the skills and practices that are needed to lead. There will always be time to talk about what it means to be a leader and what might need to be done to lead BUT without action, none of that stuff will matter. 

Interests --> learn ---> lead by talk and action ---> assess ---> shift, if needed ---> repeat!

Monday, June 27, 2022

My Learning and Leadership this School Year

It has been a great school year for me. In my role as a re-engagement teacher I got to visit and work at many different schools, meet lots of new people, and teach a lot of awesome kids. 

I collaborated my guts out - in a very different way that how I did it when I was a classroom teacher. 

I communicated with many people, in a variety of ways.

I had to think critically about many different and difficult situations which lead to innovative and creative solutions (some worked and some didn't).

I was constantly learning. Learning about policies and procedures, culture (big c and small c), how the "system" works (or at least how it is perceived to work), mental health, and about myself. 

I grew in my Faith as I talked the talk and walked the walk. I made a point of being aware of my spirituality and made it a priority. Keeping my faith front and center helped ME and made me a better teacher for my students, consultant for the teachers I worked with, and a guide for parents.

I led. Using the Catholic School Level Leadership Framework as my guide, I took every opportunity to lead and learn more about leadership. 

In terms of setting directions, I was part of a small team (we called ourselves the Unicorn Sqaud) that created the framework for our Board's re-engagement initiative. We identified short and long term goals, created high expectations for ourselves, and communicated our vision and goals to those we worked with and served. Using Ministry expectations, we established processes that would maximize resources and help students out in the best possible ways.

With respect to building relationships and developing people, I provided support and demonstrated consideration for the staff members I worked with, modeled the values and practices that consider what is best for student learning and well being, and built trusting relationships with and among students, staff, and parents.

In terms of developing the organization to support desired practices, I helped build a collaborative culture with the staff I worked with, worked with people in a way that demonstrated the value I place on their thoughts and opinions to help build collaborative practice, established productive relationships with families and other stakeholder in the educational community, and maintained my presence and involvement as a safe and healthy one. 

With respect to improving the instructional program, I provided teachers and parents with instructional support, monitored progress of student learning and improvement, and communicated effective relevant information about effective programming to students, teachers, and parents. 

In terms of securing accountability, I continued to build a sense of internal accountability in myself with respect to how I managed my professional time and ensured that when I was not satisfied with my work I would consult with my co-workers, supervisor, and mentors in order to find satisfaction and pride. When it comes to meeting the demands for external accountability, I provided the appropriate reports to my Principal and Supervisory Officer when requested to do so. Also, I shared my plans and process with people connected to the students I was working with - the students themselves, classroom teachers, special education teachers, guidance counsellors, vice principals, principals, and parents. 

It was an amazing year of learning and leading. I worked with students in grades 7-12 this year and look forward to continuing to work as a re-engagement teacher next year working with students in grade 7-9.

A successful school year, in no small part due to the support of my wife and children, my mentors Principal Carla Santomero and Principal Paul Gladding, and Father Cruz, pastor at St. John's Catholic Church.

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Becoming a Better Person for Others: Faith into Action

I've been thinking a lot about Social Justice and my work as a re-engagement teacher lately. In my travels this year, I feel like I a have been putting my faith into action more than ever before. My day to day interactions tend to involve working with people who are struggling, in more ways than one. For a variety of reasons (e.g. poverty, racism, identity, learning differences, family dynamics, social issues, mental health, etc) the experience of "school" is one that they are not fully invested in or have walked away from. As I work with each student and learn more about them, I am humbled to be part of their narrative, to do what I can to build them up and assist them in finding a pathway that works for who they are and/or who they want to become.  

I recently read an article that resonates with my current job and my reflections on how I am serving others. Written by Joe Paprocki, it is entitled Social Justice - Catholic Social Teaching. The article is short and sweet but power packed for me. Paprocki recalls hearing over and over again in school that he was to become a man for others - one who would translate his faith into action and tend to the needs of others, particularly those who are less fortunate. He refers to a document entitled "Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Direction" that was written by the bishops of the United States as a guide to help put faith into action. The document outlines seven principles of social justice in Catholic teaching that can be followed in order to discover how to live as people for others. For the purposes of this blog post, I would like to focus on the following four principles:

1. Dignity of the Human Person
2. Call to Family, Community, and Participation
3. Rights and Responsibilities
4. Option for the Poor and Vulnerable

As I consider the four principles listed above, I wonder how have I been translating my faith into action, how my thoughts and actions connect to the Catholic leadership framework, and what I need to work on to become a better man for others. I will explore the answers to my wonderings below. 

Dignity of the Human Person

Faith into action: How do I treat people? How do I show them respect? We are all God's children - no matter our position. I think that I generally treat people well. I give them the benefit of the doubt and I enter into situations with an open mind. I try and come from a place of wonder and compassion and I listen so I can understand and offer suggestions for support. 

Catholic leadership framework: Building Relationships and Developing People ~ Leaders listen to ideas, are open to them, and genuinely considering their value. Leaders demonstrate respect, care, and personal regard for one another. Treating people with dignity helps build trusting relationships.

Next steps: I need to continue to consider how I will deal with people who don't reciprocate an openness to me. I am learning not to take things personally and to remember that I am in a privileged position within a system and society that may not "see" the people that I am trying to help.

Call to Family, Community, and Participation

Faith into action: We are called to support the family so people can participate in society, build community, and promote well being. I spend most of my time with students but I actively communicate with their parents to provide academic updates, ask questions, and provide suggestions/support. If my support is not enough, I connect the family to the social worker that is part of the re-engagement team and together, we work to move in a positive direction. 

Catholic leadership framework: Building Relationships and Developing People ~ Leaders are easily accessible to students and parents and have frequent, meaningful interactions with students and parents in order to further the academic goals. Developing the Organization to Support Desired Practices ~ Leaders create an environment in which parents are welcomed, respected and valued as partners in their children’s learning, demonstrate the type of leadership that parents can trust - confident, systematic and attentive, work directly with families of diverse backgrounds to help them provide their children with support in the home that will contribute to their success at school, and help connect families to the wider network of social services as needed.

Next steps: I need to continue to hone my understanding of my role so that I can tend to the needs of the families I serve but not overstep in areas that require more specialized assistance. I want to make sure that I refer my student's and families to the people that are trained to provide them with what they need to be active participants in their communities. 

Rights and Responsibilities

Faith into action: we are called to protect the rights that people have to things that are required to have a decent life (food, clothing, shelter). I consider education to be one of those rights. I learn about each of my students and the situation that they are in. As I collaborate with schools to assist my students I inform them of what options are available to them and the responsibilities that come with each option. The students don't always know what their rights are so I ensure that they are informed so they can assist in making decisions about their education. 

Catholic leadership framework: Securing accountability ~ Leaders promote collective responsibility and accountability for student achievement and well-being. Improving the instructional program ~ Leaders give priority to identifying those students most in need of additional support. Developing the organization to support desired practices ~ Leaders  help connect families to the wider network of social services as needed.

Next steps: It is important for me to continue to work with school staff to learn about the intricacies of each student case that I am responsible for. The more I know the better I can inform. Being honest with my students will also build trusting relationships. It is important for students to be active participants in their education. 

Option for the Poor and Vulnerable

Faith into action: we are called to pay attention to the needs of the poor. Some of the students/families I work with belong to low income households. The lack of finances adds another layer of stress and causes priorities to shift. In these situations, I take great care to be compassionate and as helpful as I can be while respecting the wishes of the students/families. The schools are always helpful in these situations and will provide for the families if they are ok with it. I can't "fix" this for people but I can certainly be supportive and connect the students/families with people who can help more than I can. 

Catholic leadership framework: Developing the Organization to Support Desired Practices ~ Leaders create an environment in which parents are welcomed, respected and valued as partners in their children’s learning, demonstrate the type of leadership that parents can trust - confident, systematic and attentive, work directly with families of diverse backgrounds to help them provide their children with support in the home that will contribute to their success at school, and help connect families to the wider network of social services as needed. Building relationships and developing people ~ Leaders create and sustain a caring Catholic school culture, model responsibility, integrity and thoroughness in carrying out tasks, act in ways that consistently reflect the school’s core values and priorities in order to establish trust, demonstrate respect for students and parents by listening to their ideas, being open to those ideas, and genuinely considering their value, and demonstrate respect, care and personal regard for students and parents.

Next steps: As I stated above, this is not something I can "fix" but building trusting relationships with people by being respectful and authentic is a constant goal that I work toward. Connecting students/families from low income households with the right community supports is a start. I can do my part by assisting with academics in a way that works for the student based on their particular life situation and needs. I can be a liaison between the family and the school and I can connect the student and family with the social worker on my team. These situations are not easy to navigate but tend to get better when they know my role and see that my actions and words are aligned. 

As a Catholic teacher/leader, it is important for me to continue to grow and serve the students, families, and staff that I work with. Actioning my faith provides alignment between what I believe and how I act. Checking in on the Catholic Leadership Framework guides me with respect to how I lead and what I need to work on in order to grow as a Catholic leader. 

Taking the time to reflect is key. It is what provides me with the data I need to stay on my current course or change direction. Minor adjustments are inevitable. They are made as I continue to learn how to be a better person and how to lead.