Sunday, October 2, 2011

Qualities of Leadership

Whatever your role in education (or any other profession), you are probably a leader of someone. The leadership role may be formal, such as that between a teacher and students or between a superintendent and district staff, but it may also be an informal role as well. Perhaps you are the teacher in your grade level who is most innovative with technology or you are a content area specialist who consults with educators on an informal basis. Certainly, in your non-work roles, there are children, other relatives, or friends who look to you for leadership in some area of their lives.

We are all leaders somewhere or somehow. As such, we should aspire to become better leaders, for the sake of those who look to us for guidance.

Last weekend I had an opportunity to participate in a Leadership Forum sponsored by the Texas Computer Education Association. What I appreciated about this forum, in addition to the fact that the contents gave much food for thought, was the fact that it was open to any member of TCEA who wanted to participate. And, it was free! Can't beat that - a self-improvement opportunity that cost me only an investment of time and gasoline.

The principles shared in the forum were based on the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. I was fortunate to win a copy of the book as a door prize at the end of the event and look forward to reading it. We discussed levels of leadership and what different leaders look and act like and how we could work on improving our leadership skills. I could recount that here, but, I think you'll get more out of reading the book or taking part in a similar workshop. :-)

What I do want to share is the results of one of the first activities we did during the day. We were asked to list the Characteristics of the Greatest Leader We Personally Know. It could not be a famous person, unless we really knew them. I had no trouble picking my person. I reflected back on the first principal I ever worked for, Dr. Jo Ann Ford.

These are the qualities that came first to my mind in the time limit we were given:
  • Believed in her people
  • Encouraging
  • Spoke to your weaknesses in a way that inspired you to work on them (not feel ashamed or embarrassed)
  • Confident
  • Gave people opportunities to make a difference
  • Joyously recognized people's accomplishments
  • Always put others first
  • Made everyone feel like they were her favorite person
  • Did not dwell on her own struggles
  • Inspired others "quietly" through her own accomplishments
  • Focused on what was best for kids and teachers
  • Gave me a chance when I was young and inexperienced
You can read books and attend seminars to increase your capacity for leadership, but those are not the only ways to improve. Think of the people in your life who are a joy to follow, and then think about why. Choose one of their qualities that most appeals to you, and strive to appropriate that quality for yourself.

If we all made it a goal to become better leaders for the benefit of others, think how much we could accomplish together!!!

What are some of the characteristics of a great leader you personally know? Share in the comments, or reflect on them in your own blog post and share a link below. We can all be inspired to grow by the great leaders you share!

Leadership photo by Flikr user sqrpix, used with permission under a Creative Commons license.