Leadership is Listening With Your Eyes.

Have you ever worked for someone who advocated for your success above their own and who relentlessly pushed you towards your best self?  They pushed you not because they would benefit or even the company but because they cared… deeply for you.  They believed deeply in you and your impact.  They felt so strongly the world needed your influence and recognized their role in making this happen.  

I have.  I feel blessed that I have and even more blessed that this person was my first principal, Mr. David Ogden.  He set the bar high.  His example of a leader’s role in the building capacity and leadership in those he served is one I strive to emulate daily.  

I won’t forget walking past his table at my first job fair out of college in Bryan, Texas.  His warm and sincere smile at each passerby let me know he recognized and had not forgotten what it was like to be on the other side of the table.  I also won’t forget the warmth of those who accompanied him at his table.  Warmth and kindness was clearly valued, modeled, and expected.  I also cannot forget the first question he asked me as I spoke with him.  The questions leaders ask of potential hires often tell a whole lot about what they believe about those they serve.  He asked me, “As a first year teacher, tell me what you will offer us and how will you make us better?” Whoa.  His belief in the offerings of all and the expectation that all members of the team contribute and add value came through this one question.  In addition to the impact of the first question he asked, was the way he listened to my answer.  He was the first person who taught me what it means to listen with your eyes.  He listened so intently with his eyes, truly seeking to understand my intentions, my goals, and my heart.  He didn’t just do this at our job fair interview, he did it over the course of multiple years.  

In the summer after being hired before my first school year started, my mom and I came up to school to work in my new classroom.  He saw cars in the parking lot and wandered the halls to see who was there in the summer working with no air conditioning.  He walked into my new classroom where mom and I are standing on a cabinet hanging bulletin board paper.  He immediately jumps up on the cabinet and proceeds to help us hang paper for the next hour.  He shows us around the school and introduces me to a few staff members.  The principal helped a first year teacher and her mom hang bulletin board paper in her classroom because he wanted to, because he cared, because he believed in me and what would be created in the four walls of that room.  He didn’t do it to be seen, to be recognized, or to talk about it later.  He did it for me. 

I grew more in my first two years of teaching alongside the leadership of Mr. Ogden than I have in my career.  He didn’t make the path easier for first year teachers because they were new.  He spoke messages of competence in me by scheduling challenging students in my classes who to this day have taught me some of the greatest lessons of my career, appointing me leadership roles and allowing me to succeed and fail at leading my peers, and putting concerned phone calls through of stakeholders who needed to hear more from me.  He had an innate ability to strike the perfect balance between creating challenges and knowing when to step into support.  I now know this was not just his magic, but also because he made it his business to grow every person in his care.  

In 2022, I wish for all of you to be led by a Mr. Ogden.  I wish you to feel what it means when someone listens with their eyes, to be challenged and supported, and to be inspired by the expectations of those who lead you because you know they are deeply invested in making YOU better.  

Thank you Mr. Ogden.  I’m still choosing public education because of how you made me feel each and every day.

Interested in talking leadership or workplace culture? I’d love to talk with you- laurenambeau@gmail.com

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