How to Lead With Love


Erin @ Crafts and Sutch –

Radio music blaring, sun shining, winds calm out of the west, roads clear of ice and snow…it was a great day to be driving to Bloomington, MN where I would be attending the Minnesota Elementary School Principals’ Association (MESPA) Institute 2017. This conference is one of my all-time favorite conferences to attend each year, and it always falls on the first week in February. So, no ice and snow was a bonus!!!


In tow was my copy of Renegade Leadership written by Dr. Brad Gustafson, elementary principal in Wayzata, MN. I was hoping to get his autograph while at MESPA and guess what? He was the FIRST person I bumped into after I registered for the conference. #MESPAmn mission accomplished.


Sessions I attended pitched out many ideas and advice on how to inspire schoolwide excellence, how to lead little ones in the ECE arena, how to make sure your school is culturally responsive, and how to apply mental health first aid for those students struggling. You know what the ONE overarching piece of advice was that I heard in every single one of those sessions?  To lead with love! Boldly, fiercely, outrageously, unconditionally…


Keynote speaker Principal Baruti Kafele got the conference rolling with his presentation on Critical Leadership Questions for Inspiring Schoolwide Excellence. Lead with love takeaways were:

  • Analyze our game film and replays. Dissect it. Reflect on it. Is it filled with love for those students in our buildings?
  • Lead with purpose. Find a specificity.
  • Be on a mission to impact the lives of children.
  • Have a vision for ourselves and for our students.
  • Simultaneously see our students for who they are now AND for who they will become.
  • Leaders: WE are the #1 determinant of the successes or failures of our students.
  • Have a winning mindset for our students.
  • Greet our students every morning with a smile and one of the three H’s—high five, handshake, or hug.
  • Be intentional.
  • Take pride in our buildings and grounds. Both reflect our leadership.

Principal Baruti Kafele received a standing ovation, and his admirable message left us feeling filled with unconditional love. Sadly, his departure from Minnesota did not. The MSP Airport and the TSA’s must have left their Minnesota nice at home that day, and it breaks my heart. I am so sorry this happened to you, sir. No words!  😦


Session presenter Principal Jessica Cabeen shared with us on how to lead from the sandbox giving considerations for leading at the Prek-3 level. A brief look at her lead with love message:

  • Support effective teaching.
  • Support students.
  • Support play.
  • Support families.
  • Support professional development.

When we support each other, we certainly role-model love for each other. Jessica, your enthusiasm and passion for this ECE level was very transparent. Thank you for the great brain breaks too. LOVED dancing with you. Would love to see you dancing with your kiddos on the playground in the mornings. 🙂 Toni B…I challenge you. Then PLEASE invite me over to shake a leg with you. 😀

The final keynote speaker was Dr. Sharroky Hollie and he presented six ways to know if our schools are culturally responsive. A few highlights from his lead with love message were:

  • Be an advocate for the under-served.
  • Have courageous conversations about race.
  • Being culturally responsive gives a sense of belonging.
  • Most kids need ‘outrageous’ love.
  • Validate and affirm students.
  • Celebrate culture all year long.

Thank you, Dr. Hollie, for empowering and inspiring us to become culturally responsive.


Session presenter, Paige Thompson, mental health consultant, was the last session of the day. However, even though she was last, she was engaging and held our attention for the full hour. She was knowledgeable and full of vibrancy. She was my favorite of all sessions. Plus, she matter-of-factly told us she would not let us out early since we were earning CEU’s from her session. 🙂

The story Paige told at the beginning was enough to stir any heart. A boy was on a subway bus, heading to his secret place to end his life. He thought if just ONE person on that bus would ask him one simple question then he would not go through with it. No one did. Not one person asked those three powerful words, “are you okay?” If that is all it takes, I’m doing it! I do not ever want to be that ONE person.

Five simple tips considered to be “protective factors” for mental health and are certainly ways to lead with love were:

  • Constructive recreation
  • Economic security
  • Connection with ONE adult
  • Spirituality
  • Healthy practices such as: Sleep, Nutrition, Exercise


The MESPA 2017 Institute came to a near close on Friday morning with MESPA’s Legal Counsel and renowned education lawyer, Roger Aronson, giving elementary principals the legislature lowdown. I do not want to get into politics, but the picture below demonstrates just a touch of Roger’s sense of humor. 😀 His lead with love advice for all leaders: “Be great, smile, have fun.”

The grand finale was the 2nd Annual MESPA Speaks. TED talk style presentations for principals by principals. Very BRAVE principals I might add. Check out the hashtag #mespamn to watch a few on Periscope.


Two thumbs up to MESPA and to these three lovely ladies behind the scenes who make it a HUGE success. This is one of the best conferences I attend. God willing, see you next year! 🙂


How do you lead with love?

Stay Calm & Lead with Love!
Profs Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

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