Change Your Island Mentality Through Connected Leadership 

Guest post by Winston Sakurai 

At my school in Hawaii, we embrace the native mentality of “aloha”—which means we always welcome new people and ideas no matter where they are from. But at the same time, as we are literally living on an island, it can be hard to keep up with what is going on elsewhere. To overcome these challenges, I have worked hard to develop connected leadership behaviors that leverage technology to maximize time and performance. 

In education, there is another kind of island mentality that can be dangerous—when veteran educators can feel like they have seen it all. Mention change and some people cringe. Whether they throw their hands up or roll their eyes, educators often have unconscious obstacles to their own development.

Sticking with “what works” is often easier than trying new things. But the mentality of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is not always appropriate in education where we are tasked with nurturing the next generation. Simply put, we have to be open to change and innovation in order to serve our students and society effectively. Given this reality, the real question is, “How do we find the time?” I don’t have all the answers, and there is no silver bullet, but here are a few suggestions that have helped in my experience.

Connected Leadership

First, accept that you cannot do everything. The good news is, with technology these days, you don’t have to do it all. The secret to maximizing your time and performance is to be a connected leader. Technology has changed the playing field and the pace of which change happens. Forming a strong network of other forward-thinking innovative leaders is crucial. I am able to gain many insights and ideas from the power of the collective thoughts of the best educational minds out there. Utilizing the technology available today, I am able to instantly connect with people around the globe even as I lead a school in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Technology has overcome geography when it comes to connecting people together.

It is essential to create an environment where innovation is embraced, people are on board, and momentum is continual. Communication—an open avenue for feedback—and taking the temperature are imperative to implementing the change. Being empathetic as to how the change is affecting the school by monitoring and understanding how people are feeling is key to the long-term health of the organization.

Be the Change

Second, it is vital for you to actually be the change that you want to see in your organization. Modeling innovative ideas for my faculty and staff helps them to see for themselves how we can go from ideas to action. That means continually learning and growing as a professional. Be humble and understand that we don’t know it all. Take risks and have a growth mindset, knowing that not all the innovative things that we implement will work. Change begins with the leader first.

Whether you live on an actual island like me or just find yourself stuck in a routine, I hope these tips will help to liberate your mind and get you thinking about how to move toward a more collaborative style of connected leadership.

Think of three ways you can use technology to become more connected to staff and teachers in your school community as well as peer educators in other places. 

Winston Sakurai is the upper school principal at Hanalani Schools in Mililani, HI. He is the 2016 Digital Principal of the Year. Follow him on Twitter @WinstonSakurai and join him every Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. (ET) for a Twitter conversation using the hashtag #prinleaderchat. 

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