This post is part of our Elected Leader FAQ guidance for newly elected leaders.
At some point, all values-driven leaders feel overwhelmed when tasked with the immensity of the challenges they are trying to address. There are too many problems to solve and not enough hours in the day!
To help tackle these challenges, leaders can utilize Strategic Mapping, a tried and tested approach that helps leaders stay true to their values and gain clarity about the path towards success in their elected roles. This post walks through two phases of the Strategic Mapping process and provides resources to help guide the process.
Phase One: Articulate your Mission, Vision, and Values
In the first part of Strategic Mapping it’s important to identify your:
- Mission: Why are you doing this work?
- Vision: What is it you want to achieve?
- Values: What are the north stars you won’t compromise?
Mission: A leader’s mission statement needs to provide specific information about what makes them excited to do the work. You want to keep your mission statement brief (1-3 sentences) and be sure to make it specific.
If you’ve already written your mission when you were running for office during your campaign, then you can re-use it and/or make the necessary changes if it no longer resonates with you.
Example Mission Statement: My mission is to be the voice on the board advocating for equitable student achievement for ALL students. I will also lead with open communication and transparency to build trust among stakeholders: educators, parents, and community leaders.
Vision: A leader’s vision is externally focused on the potential that they see for their community. It’s critical to not just create a laundry list of challenges that are standing in the way of your vision becoming a reality. Rather, it’s important to consider what you want for your community based on everything you know.
Example Vision Statement: We will be a world-class school district that engages all stakeholders and breaks predictable patterns of inequity, creating equitable outcomes for student achievement.
Values: A leader’s values will guide all of their decisions—big and small. These are their North Stars, or things that they won’t compromise on. To get started on identifying your values, a best practice is to start with a list of 8-10 top values, synthesize that list into three values, and then rank them.
Example Values Statement: I will approach my role as a school board member with integrity, curiosity, and high standards of excellence.
Phase Two: Laying Out Your Strategic Plan
In the second part of strategic mapping, it’s critical for you to answer the following three questions:
- Where are you now?
- Where are you going?
- How will you get there?
Where are you now? This question asks you to describe and assess your current environment. Of note, it’s important to identify both what is and isn’t going well. Some different issues or areas to consider are:
- Your board dynamics, including your relationship with the board and Administration/Superintendent
- How you communicate with your constituents
- Student academic achievement by student group
- COVID-related issues, including learning loss, chronic absenteeism, and student mental health
Where are you going? It’s natural for LEE members to want to dive right in and fix a situation immediately once they’ve identified it. However, before trying to solve a problem, it’s important for you to know where you’re going, meaning what goals are you trying to achieve and how does it relate to your Vision.
How will you get there? Once you have your road map, you should identify what steps you will take and what strategies you will use to implement them. LEE recommends selecting 1-2 top priorities to focus on at a time—particularly if it’s your first year in office. This will ensure that you don’t spread yourself too thin and achieve greater impact on the issues that you care about by going deep on those few issues. Furthermore, by focusing on a couple of priorities, you will become the go-to person about them and become an expert.
- Who have you identified to be your values-aligned partner to help you ideate with, keep you aligned with your values, and hold you accountable to complete and implement this process?
- Set aside some dedicated time to work on your mission, vision, and values.
- Which part or phase of this process was the easiest for you to do? Which was the hardest? Why?
- How did you feel before starting this Strategic Mapping process? How do you feel after completing it?
Share with LEE your mission and vision statements, your finalized Strategic Maps, or any of your responses to the reflection questions above: firstname.lastname@example.org.