I often ask educators what qualities they like most in their administrator, and the following statement really makes me cringe:
They just leave me alone and let me do what I want.
First of all, I understand the needs for both trust and autonomy and how it is essential to motivation, but there is also a larger purpose to what we do in schools. If we truly believe that schools are greater as a group than simply individuals, simply “leaving people alone” is probably not the best approach.
I think about the best leaders that I have ever had, and how they have balanced this approach of trust and autonomy, while providing strong mentorship. This is not necessarily in telling you things to do, but often by pushing your thinking and abilities through asking questions, and challenging perceptions, without micro-managing. I have always craved mentorship in whatever role that I have taken, and find that I do much better when I have someone who is pushing me in my work. I love the idea that “if you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room” (often attributed to Michael Dell). We only get better when we find those that truly elevate us. Leaders are meant to unleash talent, not control it.
If you think that you have outgrown leadership, what are you doing to continue that growth? Books and blogs are great to push your thinking, but in my opinion, they never beat the conversations you can have others. Great leaders not only create spaces where they challenge your thinking, but they encourage you to do the same with themselves. That is part of what makes them great leaders.
Early on in my career, I remember asking my mentor teacher what I needed to do to meet the highest standards of my internship. She would give me space to make my own mistakes, but she was also always there to not only encourage me, but to ask questions, and push thinking as well. It was such a great experience that I can’t imagine doing it another way.
I love the following quote:
“Once you stop learning, you start dying.” Albert Einstein
If we just want our leaders to “get out of the way”, it may suggest that we are either not really open to learning or perhaps, we might be in the wrong room. Neither situation is beneficial to our own development.