“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more – you are a leader.”
-John Quincy Adams
Integrity. Honesty. Trust. Respect. Transparency. Dedication. Commitment. Empowerment. Visionary. Authentic. Listener. Empathetic. Collaborator. Advocate. Risk-taker. Motivator. Believer. Passionate. Defying expectations. Going above and beyond. Mover and shaker. The list could go on and on. What do these words have in common? They’re words that I think of when I think of effective leaders. I didn’t rank them in any particular order. I just listed them as they came to me.
I’m sure that as I continue to grow as an educator, this list may change and evolve, just as I will as I reflect and learn. Others’ lists may differ from mine based on their own personal experiences. And that’s okay. I’d love to here what you would include or omit from the list above…
I recently read a great post entitled Redefining the Principal by Jeff Delp (@azjd). I’ve never personally met Jeff, but have learned from him through Twitter and by reading his blog. In the aforementioned post, he reflects on the discussions that have been happening on Twitter with regards to principals and their roles in schools. I have been a part of some of these discussions and would like to share my thoughts because I feel that they’ve changed over the years…
Please know that while I am not an administrator, I strive to learn by following the examples of others. Over the years, I have thought about eventually following the path to administration, but have never been completely sure. I’ve had the honour to learn from and work with many different administrators whom I respect greatly, such as George Couros (@gcouros), one of the most innovative, passionate administrators I know, as well as Tom Hierck (@UMAKADIFF), a truly humble, insightful administrator whose philosophy about every student being a success story waiting to be told is truly inspiring. Not to mention all of the other administrators on Twitter whom I’ve never been lucky enough to meet (yet) but have learned from…My discussions and interactions with these fine educators, as well as those I’ve been fortunate enough to work with in my own district (they don’t have Twitter handles yet – the pressure is on…) have made me reflect on the opportunity principals have to help facilitate change. So, it may be a path I go down later in my career. But for now, I’m very happy being a teacher.
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
-John F. Kennedy
So why write a post about administrators when I’m not in that role? If you reread the characteristics that I attributed to effective leaders at the beginning of my post, I hope you will find that these traits should be qualities that we see in effective administrators and teachers as well. That’s right, teachers are also leaders. To be a leader is to be a team player and all of those other qualities I listed above.
As I mentioned above, I’ve been very fortunate to have worked for and with great administrators. I purposely included the word “with” because my best administrators truly made me feel like they were listening to my ideas as well as those of my colleagues. They relinquished control, were open to considering others’ input and showed their support by allowing members of their team pursue the ideas. They supported initiatives because they truly believed in them and the overall effect they would on teacher and student learning.
In any profession, there will always be critics of those in administration or CEO positions. Instead of focusing on the negative, we should focus on the strengths of these individuals and model the behaviours that we would like to see. Remember, everyone has room to grow and be better. And everyone has a different vision and an idea of what a certain role should look like. In education, we must strive to listen while remaining true to our values and to remember the overall vision for the growth of our students. After all, that’s why we’re here. If we’re not working together to do what is best for our students, then we’re not doing what we should be doing.
May we all focus on building teams where everyone trusts and respects each other, which will lead to wonderful opportunities for collaboration, and may we recognize the strengths of each team member, and build each other up so that we can be the best group of leaders for our students.
Thank-you to all of the principals and teachers that truly exemplify the traits of an effective leader….you are all so inspiring!
I leave you tonight with a video featuring the visionary Steve Jobs….