Learning to Lead: Experience Wanted

Are leaders born or are they taught?

Regardless of which side of that argument you come down on, you’ll probably agree that experience can be a great teacher of leadership, whether you have predispositions to lead or not.

If that’s true, shouldn’t principals be ever-seeking opportunities for leadership for teachers, students, and staff?

Over the past two weeks, we’ve looked at a topic that’s inspiring conversations at schools nearly everywhere:  teacher teams and teacher-leaders.  How do we have the most effective teacher teams?  How do we prepare and support the teachers who lead those teams?

That line of questioning led us to yesterday’s topic:  What if we focused on leadership  with everybody?  Today’s column carries that question to its natural conclusion:  HOW do we connect everyone to leadership opportunities? 

learning to lead

Here are some steps that can support your teachers and students as leaders:

  1. Permission to Lead:  Having a culture of leadership at your school begins with… giving everyone permission to lead.  Sounds unnecessary, but it’s important as the principal to set the tone that everyone’s ideas and contributions matter.  If your teachers and students believe that you’re there to say ‘yes’ then they’ll be more likely to step up to lead.  Make it clear and say it plainly.  Leaders wanted… all over the school.
  2. Identify Your Passion:   Principals need to be asking teachers and students about their individual passions.  We need protocols that support this work.  It can be done easily electronically, but it should be done universally and often.  If you have people thinking about their passion at school, it’ll change the culture immeasurably.  Everyone does better when they’re interested; if you set the tone that everyone’s a leader, step two is to engage everyone in exploration of their own interests and a particular passion.
  3. Gather Your Team:  Once you have permission to lead and have identified your personal passion, it’s time to find like-minded folks to join you on this journey.  You need to build a team.   It can be small (1-2) or large, a standing committee or an organically-formed group who join your interest.  If you’ve built a culture of creativity and collaboration, now all you need is to find each other and begin to act like a team.
  4. State Your Mission:  There’s you, your passion, your team, and now you need a mission.  It needs to be clearly stated and shared for understanding with your team.  The mission drives you through uncertainties and sets you on the course of your journey to success.
  5. Design Your Plan:   Often, people want to go straight to this step without the preceding ones.  That can be problematic.  You don’t need the plan first to get your team.  You DO need your passion, and then your mission.  Once you’re set with the important beginning elements, THEN it’s time to design a plan to support your mission.  
  6. Implement!  Ideas into action! Work your plan.  Just do it.
  7. Own The Results:  Being in charge means accountability.  Many of the candidates for leadership positions have the interest in the position but maybe not the experience.  This is what I believe to be one of the most important components of learning leadership.  Without a sense of vulnerability and a risk that your idea might not work, there’s not a lot to learn.  Leadership skills grow when you have to work with others, you own the results, and you are responsible for both parts (the results and the people involved).

How can you connect your people into this leadership framework?  The more that teachers and students lead, the more that teachers and students learn.  Leadership can (and does) happen in the classroom, but everything that happens in the classroom isn’t necessarily leadership.

Inspire leading by inspiring learning.  Foster a sense of exploration and curiosity.  Ask people what they’re passionate about.  Challenge both teachers and students to create things.

The more leaders at your school, the more ideas you’ll have and the more effective your school will be.





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