The Strategic Leader Looks Outward

Every mission statement promises something to the community. Ensuring a parochial school keeps its promises may be one of the more challenging tasks the school leader faces.

The first article this series looks at being outwardly focused (What are the community needs?) rather than inwardly focused (Who should we serve?). The second article discusses making the shift from inward to outward focus.

Making and sustaining an outward focus is a challenge for every leader. Once a direction is set, the school begins building processes, traditions, and a culture to support the direction. When those elements are in place they develop momentum and there is a natural inclination to preserve what already exists. As a result, even when the external environment changes, everyone, including the leader, wants to maintain the original direction.

Making the shift to follow the external changes is one of the major challenges of a leader’s skills. Recognizing the shift, determining how to realign the Christian school, and motivating the staff to make the needed changes are all difficult. Strong leaders do the difficult work because they know it increases sustainability, sustains donor generosity, and ensures the school will keep the promises made by its mission.

The third article focuses on communicating the promises. As society evolves it perceives its needs differently and the breadth and depth of its needs change. Here the challenge for the leader is to assess the evolving needs, determine how the needs align with the school’s mission, and restate the promise of the mission in terms that resonate with the community. Success increases community support. Increased community support implies increasing sustainability, donor generosity, and volunteer engagement (client services, advocacy, and referrals). Increased sustainability implies increased enrollment and better student retention.

Next Step:

Determine what changes in your community will indicate that it is time to reassess the community’s needs

Review your change indicators every 6 months

Engage the board and staff in a review of the strategy plan and mission statement whenever your change indicators suggest it is time

Communicate your plan for changes to the donors and solicit their support of the change process

Schools never intentionally break their promises to the community they serve. However, the promise is often broken because the school missed the signs that indicate the community’s needs are evolving.

Leading organizations have strategic leaders. Strategic leaders maintain a sharp outward focus and act on the changes they sees in the community.

The goal of a strategic review is to align the promises of your mission with the needs of your community. When the community sees the value of your mission, it will be easier for prospective families to see the value of enrolling their children.

If you conducted a strategic review in the next few weeks, will refreshing your promises to the community result in increased enrollment and improved student retention in the spring of 2013?


Comments are closed.