Looking at the NAIS conference program is a bit like confronting an all-you-can-eat buffet of expensive and expansive proportions: beautiful and appetizing, but a clear reminder that there is only one me, and I can't possibly even taste everything. Do I fill up on the main entrees or nibble my way through side courses? Today I chose a sampling of both and come away pleasantly full, happy to share some tidbits, which I will restrict to the main courses for space reasons.
From Pat Bassett's opening remarks at the Annual Breakfast:
* The reminder, once again, of what a strong leader Pat is. He is always prepared, always ready to share the latest data visually and orally in ways that make sense. What he gives us is useful. He connects with his audience because he takes his responsibilities and his message seriously, but not so much himself. We, as the leaders in our schools, need to do the same. We need to work hard, make sure we are prepared, speak clearly and directly, and not forget the importance of a good sense of humor.
* Three of his thoughts that will stick with me involve challenging sacred cows and underlying assumptions; deciding on what basis to compete in our local marketplaces; remembering that unless the outcome of what we do goes up, the value of what we do (tuition) goes down. Pat's presentations are always available on the NAIS website. I encourage you to take a look.
From Arianna Huffington's "On Being Fearless":
* Ms. Huffington was warm, articulate, humorous, and (perhaps surprisingly) very down to earth. I am frequently struck at NAIS conferences that the speakers who have children in our independent schools speak with a particular fervor and appreciation. They engage their parent hearts.
* She talked about the power (and necessity) of engagement, empathy, and enthusiasm in effective leaders. She stressed that we need to take care of ourselves first, to take care of the foundation of who we are -- and by extension, who are schools are. In a society that seems to value stress and a kind of workaholic ethic, we need to remember that we do not do our best work when we are sleep deprived. Ms. Huffington shared a story of a dinner companion who seemed to take pride in the fact that he slept only 4 hours per night. Her observation was that he would have been a much more interesting dinner partner had he slept 5....
* As part of taking care of ourselves, we should not waste energy on negative thoughts. I failed to note who she quoted when she said, "There were many terrible things in my life, and most of them never happened." Many of us like to think we are preparing for the worst case scenarios by thinking about them. Arianna's contention is that we should never let ourselves lose in our own fantasies. Our capacity to deal with ourselves is not objective; it's totally dependent on how we take care of ourselves.
* Instead, as leaders we need to find joy in what we are doing, look for "joy triggers" (favorite music, time with children, photos of family) and use them during every day and especially times of challenge. Focus on what is working, and live in a place of gratitude.
* She reminded us that making mistakes is part of leadership. She likened working through difficulties as a little bit like figuring out a combination lock. When we only have 4 numbers in the proper order, nothing happens. It's not until we've figured out the 5th that everything falls into place.