Far too often leadership is conceptualized as an act that requires a big ego, a high level of arrogance, and false confidence that leads others to believe the leader has the answers to an organization’s complex problems. I beg to differ. Leadership isn’t about any of those things. It’s about the exact opposite. It’s about shedding your ego. Being relational, yet inspiring others to set high expectations of themselves to benefit the organization. It’s about appreciating the value everyone brings to the organization, no matter their role. It’s about being vulnerable enough to say I’m sorry, I made a mistake, and I need your help. It’s about people. Leadership is about people. I am convinced, more and more, that the greatest leaders among us, have a precise understanding of the human condition. That is, they understand that human beings need to feel connected, valued, appreciated, and inspired. They are clear that the success of any organization is rooted in the ability to build commitment to create a collective vision, put forth collective effort, to ensure collective efficacy. They build teams, they inspire and motivate others, they set an example in their words and in their work.
Leadership is Influence
Influence requires permission. We don’t just let someone influence our behavior and our actions because they hold a position of leadership. At some point in our interaction, we make a conscious, sometimes unconscious, decision to grant them permission to influence our work and our thinking. If they haven’t gained our permission, we don’t allow them to influence us. Regardless of our title, our position on an organizational chart, or who reports to us, permission to influence someone else is not given. It is earned. That is because before we are leaders, chiefs, executives, directors, or whatever, we are HUMAN. And because we are human, we ought to realize the flaws that come with being human, no matter who you are or what you do. We choose to allow others to inspire us, to push us, to influence us to do more, grow professionally, and increase our effectiveness.
Leadership Lessons in the Human Condition
Leadership requires we accept that much of our work is to help humans be better humans. When it comes to school improvement, we can’t take people out of the equation. Our ability to get better is predicated on our ability to help those who carry out the service of teaching and learning to get better. Our work is about building the capacity in people to achieve their maximum potential. We are dealers in hope, in help, in improving lives through education with a commitment to giving children the very best of ourselves, and you can’t quantify that, no matter how much some may try. We commit to continuous improvement, because we know perfection is not attainable. We expect to have to work to improve day in and day out, month after month, and year after year. We embrace accountability for our actions, but we also celebrate our strengths. We recognize that our work is too important to spend all of our time on discussing what’s wrong. In fact, we ought to be moving the conversation past problems to solutions. We need to avoid getting soaked in the what’s wrong down pour that is so prevalent in education. If our students need problem solving skills to be successful contributors in this global society, should we not be modeling the same? Let’s make a renewed commitment to counter the what’s wrong rhetoric with a what’s next, problem solving, mentality. Instead of drowning in deficits, let’s elevate the profession by bringing solutions to the forefront of conversations by simply asking: How do we solve this problem? What ideas do you have? What do you think we should do about it? What do we need to get it done?
Above all, we ought to be sure to shed our egos, open our minds, and open our hearts to doing what is best for students. There is no competition in doing well when what you are doing is for the good of all. Education is for the good of our world, our society, our democracy. How do you compete at that? Accountability, while necessary, must not divide us. It must not turn us into fierce competitors, fighting against one another, but for the same goal. Instead, it ought to drive us to being so willing to be collaborative and collective in our efforts, because collectively is the only way we reach the lofty goals set for us. I dare you to ask those you serve if you have their permission to influence them. Let me know how it goes by leaving a comment on this blog.
Until next time-be you, be true, be a hope builder!