Leaders are thirsty. Thirsty for personal and professional growth, achievement, and success for themselves and those they lead. Leaders are just born that way. That is what makes them who they are. 

Reading books, blogs and articles. Tweeting with colleagues and experts in the field. Taking college classes and professional development opportunities. Those are all ways I kept myself hydrated back in 2019 when things were “normal.” In the year 2020, with things across the globe look drastically different, I have found myself dehydrated in my leadership growth because my cup is overflowing with the chaos of this world. Mask wearing, social distancing, quarantines, isolation, remote learning, constant changes to schedules, and continual cleaning and sanitizing has made my cup overflow in a different way. Don’t get me wrong—these things have pushed me, and I have grown in many aspects, but I feel like it has been more of a pull and less of a push and not that enjoyable. 

I have read less, connected less frequently with colleagues, and scrolled past professional development emails like they were spam from the “Jelly of the Month” club. I hope you do not judge me for the things that have not been happening in my leadership growth; I am just keeping it real. It is hard to stay thirsty when my cup is just overflowing with things that I never imagined I would have to be doing. I feel like I have a fire hose of chaos stuck in my mouth and it’s pumping gallons and gallons of water down my throat and I cannot reach the shut-off valve. How can I be thirsty when in reality I feel like I am drowning? The answer to this question became clear to me as I watched a virtual classroom lesson from my desktop computer just last week. The answer is a simple four-letter word—THEM!

I have to be stronger and push myself because my students and teachers deserve a leader that even in the midst of a pandemic is thirsty to grow. I have been so consumed with the logistics of what school in 2020 looks like and forgotten about the lives that my school is built upon. If we as leaders are not growing, then no one is growing, and if we are not thirsty, no one is thirsty. So if you have been like me, it is time to wake up and drink up! 

To get and keep myself thirsty in my leadership, I have created three daily growth goals for myself as I move into 2021. Together, they take up just 30 minutes a day:

1. Set aside 20 minutes a day to read at least 12 pages from a nonfiction book. I choose 12 pages to remind me that there are 12 months in a year and that leadership is not a part-time job but one that we work on each day throughout the year. 

2. Set aside time each day to connect with another professional in your field. By doing this you can see how others in your same boat are navigating their roles as leaders. Five minutes on Twitter can give you countless ways to grow. 

3. In order to grow and lead, you need to gain clarity. Take five minutes to breathe. Close your eyes and clear your mind so you are ready to lead in a greater way. I like to listen to the “Raising the Sail” from the Truman Showsoundtrack during my five-minute “Clarity Sessions.” One of my favorite authors, Mark Batterson, suggested the song and it’s been on my playlist ever since. 

Is it going to be easy to ensure I hit these goals each day with everything that is going on around me? Heck no—nothing is easy right now, but leadership isn’t and never has been easy. That is what makes you and I leaders! We face every situation head on, we accept every challenge with open arms and make sure we find a way to stay thirsty even when we feel like we can’t take even one sip. I believe in you and so do those you lead, so set growth goals for yourself so you can be the leader they need today. Grow so they can grow. Get thirsty so they get thirsty. Be the leader you were born to be. We can all drink to that! 

About the Author

Roger Gurganus is principal at Patrick Henry Middle School, a grades 8–9 building in Woodhaven, MI. He has a passion for children and education and strives to ensure that every student is connected and feels part of the positive communities he creates. Along with creating a culture of hope and love in his own middle school, Roger also is committed to bringing hope, love, and education to the children of Uganda, Africa, where each summer he travels in hope of making a bigger difference in the lives of students who need it the most. Follow his educational and leadership journey on Twitter (@RogerGurganusII) and his blog (https://raiseyouranchor.blogspot.com).


  • John Zack says:

    Thanks, Roger, your jelly of the month metaphor is spot on and one that caused me to truly laugh out loud. Nice to see how other leaders are handling this – note to self: keep reading these emails from NASSP as my little oasis in the storm. 🙂

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