Last weekend, I was chatting with a friend about leadership. I realized that I had not written about leadership in awhile, my focus has been more on changes in education and teaching. As I was discussing with him, I told him that I didn't feel like I had anything to say on the subject of leadership. I knew what the response would be (which I told him), because it would be the response that I would give anyone else. He said "You are a leader, we are all leaders. In fact, our students are probably better leaders than those with an actual leadership title." (paraphrased from memory :)
I knew I needed to listen to this guy, because he, himself is an incredible edu-leader. If you don't know Brad Gustafson, you need to get to know him! In our brief discussion, we actually covered a lot of ground. I shared with him what I admired about all the amazing leaders that I know (him included). They all have many of the same traits. I shared with him, that I try to emulate those same traits on a daily basis.
We also discussed the importance of reflection. So here I am, today, reflecting on that conversation and my ideas about what makes an effective and successful leader. This list is based on my conversations, observations and experiences with many leaders over the last few years.
1) Be humble: One thing that all the leaders that I admire have in common...they are humble. They are down to earth, salt of the earth people. They are REAL and it shows. There is no ego at play, they show who they are and they prove it again and again.
2) Be transparent: In my opinion, these leaders are successful because they show their cards. There is no hidden agenda, they state their vision and plan for that vision. They also do not ever claim to know everything or be perfect. They share their struggles and their fails as well as their triumphs and successes. In fact, in Brad's book: Renegade Leadership, he has a section in each chapter called "Epic Fails". It is so important to share fails and the learning that occurs.
3) Be empathetic: These gentleman all have empathetic hearts. This means that they are sensitive to the people in which they serve. They ask and take in the point of view of others and ask for feedback. They then actually take what they have learned as they plan forward.
4) Be a servant: These leaders all believe that they are in a servant business...that we have the most important clients of all...children. Their ideas and decisions always have the students at the heart. They don't just say it, they show it.
5) Be righteous: These leaders all have integrity. They do what they say and they say what they do. They walk the talk. Their actions and their words match up. They get in the mix and model the way. I believe that leaders must KNOW those in which they serve and the only way to do this is to BE with them. These leaders make that a point.
6) Be a learner: All of these leaders are very accomplished in their fields and all speak across the country about leadership. Many are successfully published authors as well. But that is not what I admire most, I admire the fact, that regardless of all of these accomplishments, they are still learners. They learn from each other, they learn from their teams, their teachers and their students. We need our leaders to be continuously learning along side us.
7) Be a giver: These leaders share...they share their knowledge, their skills and their learning. They share it widely. They understand that we are all better together and they support others on their journey of growth through sharing.
8) Be a support: A great leader finds the strengths in others and supports and encourages them to use them. They don't look at title before ideas...before skills. They will give credit to those who deserve it, no matter their "rank". An effective leader builds that capacity in their people, because they understand that as each individual grows, so does the team or organization.
Please remember, this is just my opinion and I could list many more here, but to me, these are the most important. Notice there is nothing in that list that has to do with intelligence, title or experience. To me, those things do not make a leader. There are leaders, in title, who do not prove to be leaders at all. To that end, there is the opposite. There are many who are leaders by action, but do not have the title. These are the ones who I am talking to. Leadership is more about action, than title! Everyone can be a leader, and most of you probably already are...others see it, now you need to see it yourself. When these actions come from a leader WITH the title, THAT is an incredibly positive combination. There ARE so many who fit in this category, and that is amazing!
If we were able to leverage more people in our field, with those skills, imagine the shifts we could make! Take some time to reflect on yourself, on your actions. Please see yourself as others see you... YOU ARE A LEADER...own it!
Mother, teacher, TOSA, GCE Level 1 & 2, Encourager of others.
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