Biannually, 25 Georgia school administrators aspiring to become superintendents are selected to participate in a two-year, 280-hour leadership development opportunity through the Georgia School Superintendents Association called Superintendents Professional Development Program (SPDP).
The four components of the program are:
1. Personal Assessment – Understanding one’s leadership skills
2. Purposeful Leadership – Developing the capacity for leadership as a school district’s chief educational officer
3. Practical Administration – Acquiring the practical knowledge and skills required to manage the educational enterprise
4. Professional Resources – Developing skills to navigate changing school environments through networking, coaching, current research, and changing knowledge.While there are many objectives, the primary goal of the Personal Assessment and Purposeful Leadership components is for school leaders to learn to acknowledge and use their individual talents and skills to succeed in their jobs.
While there are many objectives, the primary goal of the Personal Assessment and Purposeful Leadership components is for school leaders to learn to acknowledge and use their individual talents and skills to succeed in their jobs.Participants first learn to recognize their talents and are then encouraged to consider the environment that would optimize the use of those talents. In other words, participants are encouraged to know themselves well enough to consider “fit” when considering future positions and to look for staff that “complements” their leadership talents.
Participants first learn to recognize their talents and are then encouraged to consider the environment that would optimize the use of those talents. In other words, participants are encouraged to know themselves well enough to consider “fit” when considering future positions and to look for staff that “complements” their leadership talents.
For more than 15 years, I have conducted assessments and workshops related to the Personal Assessment and Purposeful Leadership components. Among the assessments I use is the Highlands Ability Battery (HAB), and one of the workshops I conduct is Personal Leadership. The combined experience allows participants to take the time to focus on themselves.
The HAB and Personal Leadership Workshop As The Foundation For Purposeful Leadership
As part of the first session for each of the past five SPDP cohorts, I conduct a half-day workshop introducing the concept of job fit and many of the elements that go into creating it. Participants enjoy jumping into a review of their careers and sharing their career progression with their new colleagues.
I introduce them to the difference between abilities and skills and send them off with instructions for completing the HAB and other homework before returning for the Personal Leadership Workshop the following month.
Personal Leadership Workshop and the Professional Standards for Superintendency
In every workshop, my colleague Dr. Debra Harden discusses the connection between the Personal Leadership Workshop and the Professional Standards for Superintendency.
In fact, she posts the relevant standards on the walls as a reminder. She also explains how the workshop addresses two of the four core program components. In part, her experience as a superintendent, her current state-wide perspective, and her insight regarding the importance of the topic garners active participation in the workshop.
However, the individual debriefs provide a strong foundation for further exploration into and application of one’s abilities and skills.
Next up, I review the HAB information and share an aggregated group profile. Participants see how their particular class compares to all other previous SPDP participants. While the individual debriefs focus on each participant, the group review focuses on how abilities impact working with/managing others. Participants also focus on how they can identify elements of a work environment that fit with their talents.
After all, the 180 school districts in Georgia vary widely in size (some with less than 300 students and others over 160,000 students), population density (rural, suburban, urban), economy, ethnicity, etc. Each district has a governance team of elected board of education members and a superintendent appointed by the board. Superintendents and boards continuously confront changing conditions that create a myriad of situational leadership demands.
Can there really be a single “way” to be an effective superintendent? Absolutely not!
Equipped with a solid understanding of their own talents and personal vision, participants more fully understand the need for Purposeful Leadership.
What Participants Say
Participants consistently report that spending the time on themselves is valuable and “a welcomed change.” Overall, the experience of taking the HAB and attending the Personal Leadership Workshop is rated a 4.7 on a 5-point scale. On formal evaluations, participants report they will be able to apply what they learned to improve their performance as leaders and that the experience enhanced their preparation for the superintendency.
“The session was most enlightening! The opportunity to focus on myself was a welcomed change.”
“I know myself better as a leader!”
The Georgia School Superintendents Association (GSSA) serves 180 school districts as the chief advocate for Georgia’s public school students. GSSA provides leadership and representation on public education issues at the state and national levels, and it provides professional development opportunities to school superintendents (CEOs of school systems). For the past 11 years, Highlands affiliate Dori Stiles, Ph.D. has partnered with GSSA’s Debra Harden, Ed.D. to provide workshops throughout GSSA’s 2-year Superintendents Professional Development Program for aspiring superintendents, their District Office Professional Development Program for the district office leadership that supports the superintendent, and their Executive Coaching Program. A key tool she uses is the Highlands Ability Battery, Leadership report.
In 2011, the success of SPDP program (developing leadership skills for aspiring public school superintendents) led GSSA to launch a one-year leadership development program for District Office Leaders who work with the superintendent. It’s called the District Office Professional Development Program (DOPDP). The goal of DOPDP is to build leadership capacity in those that work with the school superintendent. Self-awareness and self-management are the foundational skills for leadership development so it’s no surprise the program starts off with all participants taking the HAB, receiving customized reports, and attending a two-day Personal Vision workshop.
Additional extensions include programs for newly formed leadership teams within schools (e.g., a principal with new assistant principals), programs for working with all district leaders within a system, and coaching individuals new to the principal, assistant principal, and district office leadership positions.