Dr. Erum Shahzad is one of those rare people who attended high school, taught high school and now is a leader – all at the same school! Dr. Shahzad is an Assistant Principal at Marcus Ninth Grade Campus, Lewisville Indpendent School District, located in Flower Mound, Texas.
Here’s what her nominator had to say about her:
"Dr. Shahzad is an unparalleled Liberator. She has a calming leadership style which yields trust from myself and other educators when working with her. With this, we take risks in our work with students, bringing innovation to education in order to keep public school relevant to students and parents. Dr. Shahzad is adept at bringing out the best in others. Her humble, trusting leadership style motivates others to be more than they ever knew they could be! I have flourished since working with her- starting a parent education program and even returning to college to pursue my principal certification. She is a truly inspiring leader whose Multiplier mindset impacts others each and every day!"
We interviewed Dr. Shahzad to learn more about how she became a Multiplier leader. This blog post shares her perspective on how she got there and how she views leadership.
Dr. Shahzad's Interview
I don’t see myself solely as a leader, I see myself as a part of an awesome team. I am right there with the team, and we lead together. I try to incorporate myself into all sorts of teams (students, teachers, administrators), and I work to empower others and lead from within. I don’t think we should rely on position and authority to lead. A leader is someone who believes in others – really, that is all it takes.
On Using Others at their Highest Level of Contribution
My job as leader is to help other people discover their own strengths. I call my approach “pressuring people with support.” It is getting people to buy into their own beliefs and assets in order to contribute to the system.
Here is an example: I spoke with a group of students and shared my vision that students can lead other students – like students reaching out to students who don’t belong. A student heard me and took the initiative to start a group called “Peer Cheer.” And they are doing incredible things! They meet once a month, invite all students, and do activities to promote inclusivity. They are touching lives and having meaningful impact on students who don’t always feel they belong at the high school.
On Identifying and Providing Growth Opportunities
I feel like I am on a talent hunt everyday. Somewhere, somehow a teacher helped me identify my native genius of connecting people. I want to pay that forward. I have a counselor who was feeling burned out, but I saw that she had all the makings of being an administrator, so I encouraged her to go get the qualifications. She is a born leader, and I hope I was able to help her see that for herself.
On Creating an Environment that Requires People’s Best Thinking and Work
My one moto every year is enjoy. Sadly too many people don’t enjoy their work. I try to create an environment where people enjoy work, because when they do, then they produce their best work.
For example, the lunch room at a high school isn’t the cleanest of places, as you can imagine. We expect that. To mitigate this issue, I started Thursday Karaoke at lunch, which was a huge hit. At the same time, I set clear expecattions that in order for the students to continue karaoke, they had to keep the lunch area clean. And they did! Adding some fun along with expectations provides the incentive needed for people to do their best work.
If you create fun combined with clear expectations people will rise to the occasion.
On Decision Making
Very rarely do I take an authoritarian stance. When possible I try to guide my team to consensus through coaching and conversation.
I had a teacher who was not effective. In working with her through the evaluation process, I helped this teacher realize that she needed to make a different career choice. I didn’t have to fire her, because through coaching and conversation I was able to help her see the decisions that needed to be made.
On Handing Ownership Over to Others
This goes along with my ability to empower people. I thrive on building relationships, trust and empowering others. I always want to believe that people can do their very best if there are clear expectations. I take time to clarify that we are on the same page and then step aside, giving them the creative freedom to accomplish their own task. I don’t micromanage, but I do make sure to check in to see how they are doing. I always try to remember, “Inspect what you Expect.”
If they aren’t meeting expectations, it’s time to have a really honest conversation. Maybe I need to offer more support? You have to know your people. Some people do better with less structure, whereas other people need more. I try to just be there for them, and if there is failure, it is okay. Failure is a part of the learning process. I actually just offered a parent seminar called, “Failure is an Option” because we used to say “Failure Isn’t an Option.” But the reality is that it is, and we need to be able to learn from our failures.
Reflections on My Path to Multiplier Leadership
Our district bought all of us The Multiplier Effect book. That helped me understand what a Multiplier does versus what a Diminisher does. Reading the book really inspired me. I also had the opportunity to attend a workshop on Multipliers, and it has influenced how I lead. I encourage all leaders to read Multipliers.
I was shocked and am overwhelmed by this honor. I don’t know if I am worthy of the title of Multiplier of the Year. I am so blessed by the support of the people around me. When I saw the names of all the other people who have been nominated, I am humbled. I am in a little town, in a little school doing my best to make an impact.