What Is Leadership?
No matter what your title is, there are people who are our formal and informal leaders. I have been lucky enough to study leadership and through my training and experience, I have come to see that there are really two general types of leaders, those who manage and those who truly lead.
In short and generally speaking, leading via management is about getting the job done to move on to the next job. Leading via leadership is about getting the job done in a manner that honors the purpose of and those served by the organization. This is key.
I also came to learn that the tools used on the job will only work when they are in the right hands. A chainsaw is a valuable and useful tool if you’re a lumberjack (think Paul Bunyan). A chainsaw is an awful tool if you’re the victim in a horror movie (think Texas Chainsaw Massacre). In the right hands, meetings, agendas, memos, classroom visits, and 1:1 conferences are important tools in a leader’s toolbox, but in the wrong hands and used in the wrong way can be deadly.
How Would You Describe a Great Leader?
In January 2020, Dr. Jasmine Kullar, a consultant for Solution Tree, author, and an assistant superintendent for the Cobb County School District in Georgia worked with the secondary teacher leaders (i.e., department chairs) in my district and began the day by asking them two questions:
How would you describe a GREAT leader?
How would you describe a Not-So-Great leader?
The attributes they listed were not surprising. To question one, the teachers said things like great leaders are “honest” and “act with integrity.” On the other hand, not-so-great leaders are those that “shy away from difficult situations” and “play favorites.” After the teachers listed out their responses to both questions, Jasmine said, “Exactly! This is what your peers and administrators expect from YOU as a teacher leader.” It was an Aha Moment. If you’re a leader--formally or informally, teacher or administrator, new or veteran--great leaders behave in certain ways that not-so-great leaders don’t and vice versa.
How To Lead?
I’m thinking about leadership for a couple of reasons including the fact that I was recently a guest on the Master Leadership Podcast with Lily Sanabria. In the podcast (which will be released in late spring 2021) I talked about mushroom managers. Afterward, when reflecting on that portion of the interview, I realized that I accidentally defined mushroom management incorrectly. That got me thinking about the idea that there are so many leadership styles and they can often get confused. So I thought I’d take a moment to share a little bit about several styles. This list is not exhaustive since much is written about leadership. Let’s start with some downright bad leadership styles to get those out of the way.
Now that those are out of the way, let’s talk about some styles that are effective.
What Kind of Leader are You?
Several people have been attributed to the quote, “Leadership is not a position or a title, it is action and example.” Regardless of who was the first to say it, the point is that the formality of someone’s title, position, or location on an organizational chart is not a reflection of that person’s success as a leader. Unfortunately, there are oodles of examples of how not to lead. However, if you look and listen, there are also countless examples of amazing leaders who help those around them achieve even more than they likely thought possible in ways that benefit others. To quote Brian Tracy, author and motivational speaker, “Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily, even if you had no title or position.” That’s the leader I aspire to be and the one I hope you will be too!
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About the Author: Heather Lyon is author of the book Engagement is Not a Unicorn (It’s a Narwhal): Mind-Changing Theory and Strategies that will Create Real Engagement. Heather has a Ph.D. in Educational Administration and an Ed.M. in Reading from the University at Buffalo. She is an Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, and Technology for Lewiston-Porter Central School District in Western New York. Heather has been a staff developer and held various administrative titles, but the professional title she likes best is learner. She is also a proud wife and mother who values the importance of work/life balance—which is so critical in a profession like ours. Heather lives with her husband and three children, who make her smile and teach her the importance of patience and humor!
Please follow Heather on Twitter @LyonsLetters and visit her website www.LyonsLetters.com.