Being present is different than being visible

In light of Hurricane Harvey and its devastating effects on our community, my heart tells me to back up with some thoughts on leadership presence which, to me, is vitally different from visibility.  Early in my administrative career I heard a phrase that I wholeheartedly agree with, “You can’t lead from your office.”  I have reflected often on leaders that I felt were supportive and “hands on.”  The characteristic of visible stays with me.  The idea that to lead an organization in the right direction we must step out of our air-conditioned offices and put our eyes on the happenings of our building remains a concept I firmly embrace.  Yet for me when looking to TRANSFORM an organization, a school, visibility will never be enough.  In my experience, to be visible is to show support through being seen. To be present means to be physically and emotionally invested in hearing, responding to, and supporting the needs of the organization.  There is never a day when I don’t come back to my office after observing classrooms in deep reflection.  This reflection is where the work of being present is ignited.  From this reflection, teacher leaders are identified and empowered to affect change, next steps for department and campus professional learning are noted, and social emotional supports for staff members in need are put in motion.  It boggles my mind when any organization maps out its inflexible plan for employee learning and growth before its clients, in our case our students, have even entered the building.  Being present as a leader is truly the idea that we must constantly put ourselves in situations to be able to respond to staff needs, so that they are more apt to put themselves in situations to respond to the diverse needs of their students.  School transformation will never be supported on a series of professional learning requirements that are disconnected from the needs of the students our teachers are teaching tomorrow.  Being present allows us as leaders to make “real life” decisions regarding the support our teachers need to change learners’ lives.  Our leadership agenda must never drive the learning requirements of our staff.  So…  you better believe when our staff and students return after the devastation from Hurricane Harvey…  my faculty meeting will not be about the state appraisal system or technology initiatives.  It will be about holding hands and weathering this recovery together.  This comes through presence.

4 thoughts on “Being present is different than being visible”

  1. Thank you for defining the difference between being visible and being present. I couldn’t agree with you more. If more people were able to recognize these differences then more positive changes would come. I can feel your compassion for your staff and students through simply reading your words, Houston is so lucky to have you. You epitomize what a true leader should be!!
    Thank you Dr. Hill!!!

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  2. Leadership starts at the top. Brookside is lucky to have a strong leader who’s #1 focus is students! At the end of the day that’s the most import thing, you live it, you breathe it and you practice what you preach. Much love as you continue this path to rebuild.

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