What does good leadership look like?

December 17, 2016 § Leave a comment

I think “good” leadership looks different to different people. Maybe it’s a strong person who puts the hammer down. Maybe it’s a compassionate person who has lots of interaction with their staff. Maybe it’s someone with a vision and a way to get everyone on board with that vision.

I think, though, that there are some traits of a good leader that are universal, and I’m not exactly sure that some of them can be taught or learned. I think the best leaders simply have these qualities as part of their personality.

Genuine – if the people you lead don’t think you are genuine about what you say, you’ll have a hard time getting them to follow. Someone who is genuine earns the respect of the people who work for them and with them. They do this by backing up their words with similar actions, or by acting without speaking. Someone who is a “people person” doesn’t have to tell you that. They show you by the way they interact with others on a daily basis.

Someone who is genuine truly believes in what they are doing. They don’t do it just to make things look pretty, or because it makes them look good. They do it because they believe their actions are going to make their workplace better, more efficient, and make everyone come together. It is pretty easy for people to tell if you’re genuine. Humans are pretty adept at being able to see through someone pretty quickly. Remember, actions speak louder than words.

Compassion – not all leaders have this quality. For me, personally, at least in education, it is critical to the success of a school or district. In school districts, we are compassionate by nature. Children come to us from circumstances we may never know, experience, or understand, and in order to be able to serve those children, we must have leaders who understand what it means to be compassionate, and treat their staff with the same compassion and understanding that we expect our teachers to treat their students. Compassion, to me, means listening, and remembering. It is not something I do because I feel like I have to. It is something I do because it is who I am.

Listening means you’re not just listening in the moment and asking questions about the current conversation. It’s coming back to a conversation a day or two later, asking how things are going, remembering what was said before. Remembering people’s names, remembering things your employees told you they were going to do outside of work, and genuinely (there’s that word again) caring about those things. Compassion ¬†also means that the rules within the organization can’t be hard and fast. Letting someone leave 5 minutes early before a holiday when you know they have a long drive ahead of them isn’t compassion. Especially if that person works their tail off.

Rewarding hard work by being flexible is another trait of a good leader. If you have someone who stays late or works through lunch or works on things from home after hours, being flexible with them is a nice way to say thank you.

And speaking of saying “thank you,” you should. A lot. People like to be thanked for the work they do, even if it is just doing their job. Saying “please” is also something that should be worked into your everyday vocabulary. Yes, you are the boss. Yes, people will do what you ask because you are the boss and for no other reason, but it is just good manners to say “please” and “thank you” when people are doing things for you.

Something else I’m a big proponent of is knowing what other people do and being able to do it yourself. I’m not saying that you have to be an expert at every job your staff does, but it helps if you know what they do, show that you’re willing to help, and ask questions that show you’re genuinely interested in the work they do. And if you don’t know anything about a job a person does, ask them to explain it to you. It shows that employee that you want to understand and that their work is valuable to you. Be child-like. Observe. Ask questions. When you do that, you’ll see the pride your employees have in their work.

These are just a few of the initial qualities I think of when I think about a good leader. I’ll follow up with some more, and maybe some anecdotes, later in the week.


And yet…

December 16, 2016 § Leave a comment

I promised in my previous post that it wouldn’t be another year before I posted again. And it hasn’t. It’s been a year and 10 months. I’ve gone almost 2 years without writing a word in this space.

For me, the things that I used to post here turned into discussions with my colleagues. I had, at last posting, still been adjusting to my district and a new superintendent. I was fortunate to be able to hire a couple of staff members in my department, and over the course of a couple of years, we really gelled together. We were able to work really well as a team and so a lot of the ideas I would post here, just to help me reflect, ended up becoming conversations within my own department.

I never really received much feedback from this blog. I’m not a prolific writer as some of my Ed Tech colleagues are. But this space served as a place for me to talk about ideas and think through things. When those conversations were taking place in my own office, I didn’t really need this space anymore. So I stopped.

I am now in a new district, with new challenges. A much larger district. A much more structured district. A much more urban district. I have a larger staff, who I’m still getting to know. I have a new boss, which requires a little bit more planning and informing when I want to try things. It’s been a bit of an adjustment, but it has been working out pretty well.

I think the new few things I’m going to write about are going to be not technology related, but geared more toward leadership. After reading through my last post, I realized that I was able to let go, a bit, of the desire to constantly be in the classroom. I’ve take a step further back now in my new district, and I’m trying to be a good leader to this team who is nervous because I’m their third boss in as many years. I know how stressful that can be.

I have now worked in 6 different school districts through my 20 years in Education. I’ve learned a few things from all of the different supervisors I’ve had. I’ve learned some really great things, and I’ve also learned a lot about what not to do as a leader.

So, look for a couple of posts (no, really, I do plan on writing!) on leadership in the coming days.

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