"We are all leaders in our own right"- There they are...my words. I've said them, I've written them, but do I believe them? Often times, I write to convince myself of such things. This is one such time. Are we all leaders? Am I a leader? Can one be a leader, without an official leadership title?
As I ponder this, I reflect on what I believe the anatomy of a leader is. I think about all of my friends that I consider great leaders. I think of the many traits and actions, that I admire in them. It is who I strive to be, every day. I believe a leader is someone who rallies the troops, someone who includes others on the journey, someone who encourages and celebrates and walks along side of their people.
I'm a visual learner...so I needed to make a graphic to help me hone in on this.
What is the anatomy of a leader?
Innovator's Brain: This is someone who is always thinking: "How can we make this better?" not just "different" for "different's" sake...but create change for the better. This is an outside of the box thinker, someone whose mind can stretch and see possibilities. Someone who is not afraid to risk themselves and encourage risk in others.
Learner's Mind: I love when people call themselves "Lead Learner" rather than "Administrator". That shows that they know the importance of continued learning and growing oneself. Things change so quickly, if we are not in constant learning mode, we will be left behind. A learner's mind also includes sharing that learning with others.
Hearing Ears: Another thing I say often is "We need to not only listen to others, but we need to HEAR them." I believe there is a difference. We need to make sure we hear, we understand and we do. We need to make sure to do something with what we have heard. This is how we build trust within others.
Observer's Eyes: Our eyes are always taking in information. There are things that we see overtly, but we also need to observe what is happening covertly. We can only do this if we are WITH, really with, those on our team, or those that we support. We need to be watching and learning. We need to know context in which our team is working. We need to also see the strengths and areas of growth in others and use that information to help all move forward.
Empowering Mouth: Words matter...a lot! We need to be conscious of not only the words we speak, but the way in which we speak them. As a leader, I believe we should be building others up, growing them, empowering them. This doesn't mean there shouldn't be constructive feedback, this means just the opposite. In order to empower others, they need to have feedback, authentic feedback, actionable feedback. They then need the supports, plan and/or tools to help them grow.
Empathetic Heart: In order to lead others, one needs to be able to see things from other people's perspectives. These can't be "guesses", but based on knowledge gained from knowing our people. Before acting, it is important to think through how it will effect all parts of the team. If we don't know, it is important to ask, to have conversations...discussions.
Working Hands: The best leaders I know roll up their sleeves and jump in the trenches with their team. They are on the floor with the students, they are in the rooms teaching, they are taking risks along side of their staff. They literally do the heavy lift, if needed. They look at their school staff as a team, no one job is more important than the others. They pitch in when needed, without a second thought...they lead from the middle.
Walking Feet: I believe in order to be an effective leader, one needs to BE with those they lead. This means they are in the classrooms...really in them. Not doing a drive by, check in. They spend time with the students and the teachers. They know the students and the students know them. They are a normal fixture in the classrooms, on the playground, in the halls and the parking lot.
My friend Tony Sinanis moved up to the Central Office this past year as an Assistant Superintendent. He made it a point to schedule meetings later in the day, so he could spend his mornings in classrooms. It was fun to watch him on his daily journeys via Twitter. What was more amazing to see was at the end of the year, how many students' lives he had impacted. They know him, they love him and they are going to miss him as he moves on to a new district as Superintendent. He works hard to redefine his role...that is the kind of leader I wish to be.
So...can someone be a leader without the "title"? Absolutely! I DO believe we are all leaders in our own right. I know I try to emulate all of the above, every day. What does YOUR anatomy of a leader look like?
Mother, teacher, TOSA, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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