Staying Mission Focused as a Leader

School leaders can resist the urge to micromanage by focusing on the most important goal: helping students and teachers succeed.

A teacher and an administrator looking over some paperwork together

I was restless the night before the information was released, imagining scenarios from the most glorious to the most grave.

When I arrived at my office the following day, I closed the door and dove into an hours-long data analysis session, coming up for air only intermittently.

Getting my school’s standardized test scores after my rookie year as a principal was a nerve-racking experience I won’t soon forget. While I never overemphasized test data as a metric for my own performance—or the performance of my colleagues, teachers, and students—I was well aware of the importance placed on these reports by others, including my superintendent and members of our community at large.

The results were neither dire nor amazing; in fact, they were just what I thought they would be. They were, after all, just small pieces of a bigger picture. And yet I found myself worrying about the scores for weeks on end. I wanted the data to look better. I was worried about how it would reflect on my school.

In the end, the conversations about scores came and went, but my responsibilities as a leader—to help students and teachers succeed—remained consistent. In hindsight, I realized that I should have kept this—and not the test results—at the forefront of my mind all along.

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