Niomi Plotkin, center, talks to John Harrison and other charter school leaders during the ELF orientation.
For the city's charter sector, the task of building better leaders begins with self-reflection.
The project of understanding what makes a good leader — particularly for charter schools, which have some of the highest principal turnover rates — is what consumes the 20-odd educators who gathered at the New York City Charter School Center this week to kick off the sixth year of its leadership training program.
When they return to their schools later this month, the educators will face diverse challenges. One pair comes from a school that has nearly doubled in size faster than expected due to make up a budget shortfall. Another is from a rare standalone school serving kindergarten through 12th graders, which will be preparing its first cohort of students to graduate and apply to college next year.
But on a recent morning, all of the participants were focused on the same question as Heidi Brooks, a professor from the Yale University School of Management, talked them through a platitude-heavy presentation about identifying leadership qualities.
"How would you describe yourself as a leader? How do you describe a great leader?" Brooks asked the group, then began taking down their answers until ink filled a sheet of poster paper.
"Positive," "self-aware," and "systems-aware" topped the list of traits.