Clearing the Path: Leadership in the Age of Change

Leadership in the Age of Change

Leadership development is a crucial element in ensuring success for students, teachers, districts, and any organization. Development isn’t just reading the “Top 5 Leadership Strategies” as you scroll through your Linkedin timeline; Leadership requires constant engagement with your personal habits and their relationship to external forces. 

In this Age of Change, leadership becomes more important than ever as organizations face significant periods of change both personally and professionally. From my own experience, I’d like to share a few key concepts and strategies that have led to growth and success for organizations through significant periods of change. 

Defining the Age of Change

Over the last 5 years, there have been considerable changes in almost every aspect of our lives. The big three categories of change affected by the circumstances of the recent past can be defined in technology, society, and reliability. Understanding these changes is essential to developing leadership strategies that can help organizations thrive in the Age of Change. Growth in technology, shifts in social norms, and inconsistent reliability have affected all organizations in different ways, leading to the loss of resources, employee/teacher/student retention, transportation, facilities, and program immobilization. When faced with unforeseen obstacles, it can be difficult to decide the right thing to do. Developing a true north or a set of foundational values are vital in navigating change. 

Increasing Commitment, Deepening Passion, and Preparing the Future 

When you think about your program; whether you have just arrived or gained tenure (not quite emeritus), how would you describe it? Many people I know begin with the end product. The performance, the achievements; you know, the highlights. Many times in describing our programs we take a retrospective approach as opposed to a present or future forward one. The question should always be, where are you heading? As a leader or a member of a team, it is best to ensure that all program stakeholders understand and contribute to the future success of the program. 

Sometimes change can disrupt this mission. After a catalyst event such as a natural disaster, global health crisis, or social upheaval—leaders should refocus on their core purpose. In my experience leading organizations, there have been three key concepts that led to growth and success: increasing commitment, deepening passion, and preparing the future. 

  • Increasing Commitment: Work together to better the student experience through collaborative planning and programmatic alignment
  • Deepening Passion: Develop more opportunities for student performances in multiple genres, ensemble types/sizes, and skill levels
  • Preparing the Future: Create a collective vision through feedback loops, anticipatory learning, and logistical inclusivity

How would you apply these values? Did you think of one or two that you would add or exchange? Adopting the values above has led to the creation of multiple district music festivals, additional music ensembles, many new instructional positions, and overall enrollment increases of over 500 students in fine arts programs during a time of decreased district enrollment. As a leader, you are a major agent of influence during times of change, so it is imperative that you know who you are and how you affect your environment.

You and Your Leadership Style 

WHO ARE YOU? Leadership has many styles, and the roles you play may require an adjustment in your natural behaviors depending on the situation. Understanding where you put your leadership energy is paramount in achieving personal and organizational success. Reflect on your leadership style. Has there ever been a time your personal values and your leadership role were in opposition? Separating our identity from our leadership decisions can be difficult, but knowing the necessary levers to pull when a moment of difficulty arises separates great leaders from the rest. I have found that adopting principles of organizational leadership allows me to balance my leadership approach to sustain success and maintain personal wellness. 

Organizational Leadership as Strategy 

Organizational leadership is the ability to lead groups of individuals toward fulfilling an organization’s mission. It motivates team members, allows space for problem-solving and decision-making mindsets, promotes communication, ethics, inclusion, and respect, and allows organizational leaders to remain goal-oriented. There are many articles, studies, and successful models of organizational leadership available. I connected most with the actionable approach in Harvard Business School’s article “Organizational Leadership: What It Is and Why It’s Important.” 

If you’re a musician like myself, you may connect more with these roles: 

● Performer ● Producer ● Conductor 

Living in these roles is like living the life of a bassoon player in an ensemble—there is a considerable amount of supporting, sustaining, and resting with an occasional melody here and there. When playing the role of the performer, think of yourself as the principal player in an ensemble—you model high skill and responsibility to your section. As a Producer, you compose and manage the art the ensemble creates and the environment they perform in. Finally, as a Conductor, you are actively collaborating, guiding, and suggesting appropriate actions to make the best possible product. Combining an organizational leadership mindset with established values will provide the direction you may need in your organization’s pursuit of excellence. But how will you know when you are there? 

Defining Success through Change 

Success indicators are key in developing a roadmap for the future of any program like a school district or youth orchestra. Reviewing fundamental elements of successful programs while reframing the mission and vision of our own provided clarity for the steps needed to head in the right direction. After assessing our resources, I established success indicators to be tracked through individual student achievement and performance opportunities, program growth, and impactful collaboration. You can define successful actions that contribute to the completion of your goals related to data points like the ones I utilize through a strategic planning processes like the following: 

  • SWOT analysis
  • Logic models
  • Accountability/Evaluative Schedule Development
  • Developing Standards of Participation/Competition
  • Professional Development focused on Vertical and/or Horizontal Alignment
    Additional elements to consider are time, resources, and relevance when developing your program goals. When determining successful actions towards those goals, these three elements can heavily influence your rate of success.

Clearing the Path 

Clearing the path is a continuous process using multiple levers of influence. Often, leaders do not combine these actions for impactful change but utilize them in isolation to achieve their goals. Successful actions directly contribute to the fulfillment of the overall mission and vision of an organization and should not be evaluated in isolation; this creates isolated success, not sustainability. 

Leadership in the Age of Change requires a mindset that is open to new ideas and strategies. By utilizing key concepts and understanding changes in technology, social norms, and reliability, leaders can develop strategies that can help organizations thrive. Remove and de-emphasize obstacles that may be present. Clear the path towards success. 

Jager Loyde currently serves as a Director of Fine Arts in Round Rock ISD in Round Rock, TX.  Throughout his educational career, bands, and orchestras under his leadership have achieved consistent Superior ratings and performed at state and national conventions.  His educational experience also includes serving as a nationally recognized adjudicator, clinician, and advocate, appearing at The Midwest Clinic, Music For All events, Drum Corps International, and numerous State Music Educator Conferences and Marching Championships.

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