4 Leadership Qualities That Need Follow-Through

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by georgia.kral

There are a lot of “qualities” of effective leadership that are discussed, yet important elements are left out that leave these qualities lacking.  When I think of what I want to see in leaders, and what I do my best to aspire towards, I try to think of certain qualities and the corresponding actions that make them whole.  Here are a few below.

1. Words without action – This one is so plainly evident, yet it has to be stated.  Leadership is not simply being a “thought leader”, but someone who gets things done.  This quote sticks out to me:

“Everyone who has ever taken a shower has had an idea. It’s the person who gets out of the shower, dries off, and does something about it that makes a difference.” Nolan Bushnell

Have you followed through on your promises?

2. Being “heard” without follow-up – I will have to admit, I look for more than just being “heard” by someone when I have a concern or an issue.  I want it to be a conversation.  Being “heard” and “agreeing” are two different things, yet often times common ground can be found. It is essential to listen to all of those that we serve, but how do we follow up? Sometimes after these tough conversations, I wait, go home, think about it, and either respond in detail through an email or have a follow-up meeting to share what I heard, and talk about next steps.  It is way easier to take a side in the heat of the moment, but if you are an effective leader, you will work to find the “best” idea, not “your” idea.    Take time to share that thought process to ensure that you show others no they are an important part of your team.

3. Vision with no clarity – Every school or district has some mission statement, and after awhile, they seem pretty generic. If you want to see progress, start breaking these statements down and talk about what it looks like in the classroom.  If you want to find out if a school leader has a clear vision, ask them what learning should look like in the classroom.  If they can’t give you some ideas in the classroom, we have a problem.  A moving target is pretty hard to hit, but not as tough as a target that doesn’t even exist.

4.  Promoting “risk-taking”without taking risks – “Risk taking” is something that is often talked about and encouraged at the leadership level, but does it happen often?  If an educator does not see their administrator taking risks in the work that they do, that teacher is not going to feel very comfortable doing it in their job, which will often relay down to the students being risk averse.

Here is an example.

I have visited many schools and seen a lot of staff meetings that look pretty similar.  Administrator at the front, educators sitting down (either by themselves in groups or individually), information being dispersed, and group talk that is often at task.  There is often a lot of complaining about the process, yet things don’t seem to change.  What if the administrator decided to change things up, or tweak, or turn things upside down, and embody trying to do something different that is better?  If it doesn’t work, we try again.  Honestly, if staff meetings don’t change, you can forget about classroom learning changing.  People are not likely to change when you tell them something; they are likely to change when they experience something.

When I think about the work of effective leaders, it shouldn’t be complex, but a lot of work.  Great leadership takes time to build relationships through trust and actions.  Being charismatic and effective communicator are not the qualities that many look for; they want credibility.  Follow-through is essential and can take leadership to the level that we need to reach.



  1. George – you are consistently on point & remarkably timely. Particularly fond of digesting #2 (hearing/no follow thru). We are experiencing A LOT of change this year and anxiety is high. Grounding myself in messages like this help me keep above water. Thnx!

  2. Hey Pal,

    Just wanted to let you know that this was a brilliant bit. I pulled a neck muscle nodding my way through the entire piece.

    Thanks for articulating so much of what I feel good (and bad) leadership looks like in action.

    Hope you’re well,

  3. As a principal shared information with teachers about classroom issues at a staff meeting, a teacher commented to a co-teacher, ‘ I thought I taught Year 3, I now feel like I am in Year 3.’
    I agree George, we are never going to create innovative and dynamic learning environments if leaders do not model creativity, collaboration, deep thinking and develop a shared vision about what quality learning looks, sounds and feels like. How can we expect our teacher to do what they may not know or have experienced?

  4. Well written, and spot on (as usual) particularly the idea of vision without clarity. Frequently vision or mission statements are shared without a clear plan for achieving that goal, and the milestones to be recognized along the way.

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