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.