At SA, we’ve made a conscious commitment to build equitable opportunities for growth at all levels of the organization. Liesel Anthony, Head of Learning Development at SA’s Education Institute, has been driving our efforts to make this vision a reality, particularly in the area of career advancement. As we celebrate our recently promoted — or “rising” — leaders, Liesel reflects on SA’s efforts to develop and promote diverse talent.
What guiding principles and initiatives do you think will make a difference long term as we continue to focus on growing diverse talent from within SA?
I believe being purposeful today will make a difference in the long run. For instance, one of our guiding principles is transparency; we believe that in order to fulfill our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, we must cultivate a shared understanding of the many leadership roles available across our schools and network office. We also wanted to drive greater interest in leadership roles from within SA, encouraging staff to apply for leadership opportunities that interested them. After all, if our staff doesn’t know what’s possible in terms of professional growth and career progression, how can they be expected to participate? That’s why we designed the Career Advancement initiative — to outline the next leadership roles and pathways to promotion and career transition for every staff member across the enterprise.
We have more than doubled the percentage of POC representation in the Rising Senior Leader class, from 30% to 64%. How do you account for this increase, and what would you like to see over the next year?
Last year’s Inclusion Council received explicit feedback that the pathways to leadership needed to be clearer and, therefore, more accessible. In response, we launched the Career Advancement initiative, which has driven greater interest in these roles and inspired future leaders to actively participate in career advancement activities. On top of Edge training at the network office and faculty development days at schools, SA hosted a series of career advancement webinars in which participants got to hear directly from people currently acting in the role of senior leader, business operations manager, and assistant principal. We have a very talented group of leaders, and it was motivating and inspiring to hear directly from them about how they approach their job — from the challenges they navigate to the fresh joys they discover each day — and what advice they would give to someone interested in becoming a leader. Fortunately, these webinars were recorded, and you can still access them today through the Career Advancement microsite! Already, we are seeing the success of our methods because we have recruited a diverse group of leaders from within our organization to serve as principals for next school year.
What advice would you give to school staff who are considering a future leadership role, but are not even sure where to start? How can they learn about the role, and how do they know what they should be doing today, to set them up for a future school leadership role?
Even if you don’t feel you’re ready to pursue a leadership role right now, make it a priority to learn about the next leadership role. Look into the application process to gain insight on what’s required to advance to the next step in your career. What types of skills and experiences would make you a qualified candidate? How can you seek these development opportunities?
Your colleagues are also an incredible resource! Seek out a mentor or coach in the position that interests you to ask them about their day-to-day responsibilities. This can also be a great way to get clarity on the key leadership skills the role requires, such as communication or people development. Then, devise a plan with your mentor to help you increase your readiness for the role, perhaps by setting goals to grow and improve in key areas. Still have questions about cultivating leadership skills? Reach out to one of our newest rising leaders, who each have recent experience in expanding their leadership skills; after all, there are more than 50 rising leaders, and they could each give you sound advice! No matter where you are in your career journey, the more you can learn about what it takes to be a leader, the better prepared you will be to assume a leadership role when your time comes.
For Network staff, we are also working on a plan to support individual career development. Stay tuned!