“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.” – Joel A. Barker

School principals are excellent managers, as they should be. They manage their day-to-day operations and work with multiple stakeholders to run their schools smoothly. However, they should also aim to drive their educational institutes towards growth and development. A school leader can simply realise the direction by having a ‘dream’ for their school. In other words, they can aspire to have ‘A School of their Dreams’ similar to an individual’s dreams such as travelling the world, leading a happy and healthy life, etc.

One of the ways of making these dreams achievable is by translating them to a vision. A vision is a long-term dream which can be realised by action. It is indeed a mental image of what the future could or will look like.

A vision helps a school principal decide their purpose and priorities. It helps answer questions like -

  1. what does their school stand for?
  2. what do they want their students to become?
  3. what values do they want to instil in their students?

Being mere good managers for a school, School principals might not transition to be effective leaders with a purposeful vision for their school. It is proved time and again that to transform a vision into reality, one requires an advanced skillset such as an ability to influence others in the school to work towards the school’s vision. It is essential for stakeholders to believe in what the School Leader envisions so that they form the required support system. This is popularly known as strategic leadership.

“Strategic Leadership refers to a manager’s potential to express a strategic vision for the organisation and to motivate and persuade others to acquire that vision…” 

Interestingly, most schools already have their vision and mission statements in place. They have documented ‘what’ they want their school to become and ‘how’ it can happen. However, these are just displayed on school walls and notice boards and seldom looked at. If schools aren’t consciously considering these at each stage of planning and decision making, then one must go back to their vision board. There is a need to re-look at it and re-define their purpose and priorities to ensure that the vision statement is truly driving the work in the school.

To be able to make the vision more actionable, School Leaders must break it down into specific and measurable goals or SMART goals. Thus, by working on a few goals at a time, they will gradually lead the school towards its vision.

For example, Mumbai School Leader from Vivek High School has a dream that one day all of his students will not only succeed in their own communities but at a global platform. With support from ISLI and his Programme Manager, he worked towards creating a vision statement by shortlisting certain keywords that he could derive out of his dream –

Nurturing future leaders with collaboration, critical thinking and creative thinking abilities to develop knowledge, skills and values to live and work as global citizens.

As part of effective communication of the vision to different stakeholders, he displayed this vision statement on the notice boards in the corridor and in the staff room. In order to work towards achieving his vision and to bring it alive in classrooms, he broke it down into various key areas. He prioritised one key area that the school will work towards - students will be able to speak fluently in English. This area was converted into a goal which is more specific, measurable and time-bound. To meet this goal, he formed an action plan along with his teachers.

For school leaders to have ‘A School of their Dreams’, they must convert their dream to a vision statement and bring it alive by working towards achievable goals aligned to their vision.