Three Keys to Leadership

@mr_brett_clark 3 Comments

I'm not sure it can be overstated how important leadership is. Leadership is what tips the scales in the workplace.  A good leader can take a bad situation and turn it around and a poor leader can be handed the best situation and turn it into a disaster.

Bill Bradley once said that leadership is unlocking people's potential to become better. I couldn't agree more with his statement. The question is how do leaders do this? What are the characteristics of a good leader? Now obviously there have been books and books written about what makes a good leadership and I'm not naive to think I'll cover everything in one blog post. However, I believe I have identified three keys to being a good leader.

Like a lot of my blog posts, it all started with something I tweeted the other day.

Now I would like to expound on that thought a little bit more by discussing why I think those traits are important, why leaders struggle with them, and how we can develop them.

Willingness to Empower

Why it's important:

The best way to lose power is to try to hold onto it. The word empower means to give authority to somebody else. Good leader will work to find ways to hand their authority to those around them. They will do this for a couple of reasons. One is because the recognize we can't do this alone. I don't care how big or small the job is, we are all better when we work together. Another reason is because when people are empowered, they feel energized. Think about the word "em-power". If we don't empower people, then they will feel powerless. If the people who work with us feel powerless, they won't work with us, yet alone for us, for very long.

Why it's difficult for leaders to do:

The reason why it's difficult for leaders to empower their employees is because when we empower people we feel like we are losing control and become less needed.  Control is an illusion. A leader will only have as much control as they are willing to relinquish. Also, a leader must ask themselves this question, do you want compliance or commitment? Micromanaging might increase the amount of compliance you get from those under you. By empowering those around you, you will increase the amount of commitment you from those who work with you. Also, it is a lie that the more responsibility you hand off, the less you will be needed. In fact, the opposite is true. Empowering those around you allows you to grow in influence and you become more important.

How leaders develop this trait:

In order to develop this trait, you must first have a clear direction where you want to go. A leader can not empower people if they don't know what they are empowering them to do. Once a clear vision has been determined, then it is easier to delegate responsibilities to those around you. Also, a leader must understand the strengths and weaknesses of those on his or her team. When you have a vision and understand your team's strengths and weaknesses, then a leader can feel comfortable empowering the people he or she works with.

Willingness to Trust

Why it's important:

Change will not occur without taking risk. If people are going to take risk, then trust has to be involved. They have to first trust themselves and their decision making.  However, if they don't feel those leading them have trust, then will be hesitant to take risk. Even if they have complete trust in themselves. Also, it's important on the leader side of things as well because if you don't trust those you work with then you will spend all of your time worrying about what they are doing or micromanaging every decision.

Why it's difficult for leaders to do:

There are potentially several reasons why a leaders struggles with trust. One could be that the team they have was one that was handed to them and not one they put together themselves. Another could be because their boss doesn't put trust in them and they have learned not to trust those around them. Also, leaders feel, in the end, it's their name at the top and are not willing to put their reputation in the hands of another person.

How leaders develop this trait:

First of all, a leader must be willing to be a risk-taker themselves. Putting your trust in somebody is a risk but it is one that reap great rewards.  Leaders must be willing to accept this risk. Even if the team is one that was handed to the leader, by placing trust in them a leader will unify their team. Willingness to trust is one of those traits that you can only build by diving in and taking the risk.

Willingness to Release Control

Why it's important:

A leader can't do it all effectively. There is almost no task out there that won't be accomplished quicker and better without a team. One of the main role's of the leader is to be working on the next steps for their team. A leader can not be working on the future if they are too busy controlling the present.

Why it's difficult for leader to do:

Like building trust, it can difficult to release control if a leader feels like it's his or her butt on the line. Also, when leaders release control then they must also be willing to put others ideas ahead of their own. This is where pride can rear it's ugly head. Self-confidence is a great trait to have but pride is a destructive trait. A leader can't release control and be prideful at the same time. Leaders, at one time or another, will have to deal with pride.

How leaders develop this trait:

First of all, leaders must reflect on how they like to be lead. Most likely they moved into leadership because somebody released their control on them and allowed them to shine. Fish will only grow to the size of the tank we put them in. The bigger the tank, the bigger the fish. The bigger the body of water, the less control we have. If leaders want their team to grow, then they will have to eventually release control. Releasing control is a decision and it's one that is vital to the growth of leaders and their teams.

It's time to hit the comment section up! What traits do you look for in a leader? How do you develop the ability to empower, trust, and release control? 

Education Dreamer


2 things everyone wants

Anonymous 0 Comments

This is a blog that I originally wrote for SmartBlogs. You can find that post here.
School already has started for me. It’s always exciting to start a new year, and, even better, I am in a new building. During my 10-year career, I have been in five buildings: two middle schools, two K-8 buildings and one high school. Even though there have been specific things that have set each building apart from another, there are two things they all have had in common: Everyone wants a voice and choice.
Everyone wants to be heard. I don’t mean only listened to, either. People want to know their opinions matter and that they have a chance to contribute to their school. Students want their school to be a reflection of them. Teachers want the same thing. They want to have a voice in their professional development and initiatives being implemented. Like students, they want to be able to speak out when they are frustrated and share when they are excited.
The fact is students and teachers will find a place to voice their thoughts, but when a school provides the place for their voice to be heard, it can change the school’s culture. There are several ways schools can do this.
  • Student blogging: Linda Yollis recently wrote about the benefits of blogging with young students. Using websites such as, schools can create a place for students to share their voices.
  • Student websites: A student-created site using Weebly or Google is another way for students to share their voices creatively.
  • Twitter: Our school recently started a Twitter account (@GLAinfo) and a hashtag (#evscGLA), allowing students and parents to tweet questions and share information.
However, you can’t forget about the introvert — the student who has a voice but doesn’t feel comfortable sharing it in a public venue. It is crucial that we develop a relationship with these students. If a child doesn’t want to blog or tweet, that’s fine with me. Such students can “blog” on a piece of paper and hand it in to me. I’ll comment with sticky notes and hand it back. What I want to do is show these students that their voices are as important as those of students who use social media.
As a former classroom teacher, I want my leadership to give me time and opportunity. A lot has been written lately on “flipping” professional development, and this is one way to give teachers time and opportunity to discuss issues, instead of “sitting and getting” during a faculty meeting. Also, I want to be able to go to my administrator’s office and talk if I need to. Outside the building I work in, I have my personal learning network, which is always there when I need to share my voice. Participating in #Edchat or #Flipclass chats gives me a place to share my ideas and thoughts. Plus, I always walk away with more than what I brought.
The other thing that everyone wants is choice. Students want to have a choice in what they learn, how they learn and how they show what they have learned. They want choice in what they do daily and the ability to make changes as circumstances change. You can’t truly provide choice if you haven’t heard their voice. If you are the one who came up with all of the choices, that’s not real choice. Let students design the next learning project. Something as simple as a choice board will give students options in how they are assessed.
Teachers want to have choice in things such as their schedule, committee assignments and professional development. I give my teachers the Coach’s Menu, from which they can select professional development. My teams also have Tech Tuesdays, during which teachers can access professional development at our office on any topic they want. We surveyed our teachers last year with Google Forms to find out what kind of full-day professional-development sessions they would want to attend. Again, as with students, we listened to their voice, which led to giving them choices.
I know that there are times when choice is not an option. However, the more choices we can provide our students and teachers, the better, especially if those choices are given as a direct result of the voice we allowed people to have. Why do you think #Edchat is so popular? It’s because we have choice in the topic, and it’s a place where our voice can be heard.
As a person who provides professional development to teachers in my building, I am working hard at giving my teachers a voice in the professional development they receive and a choice in how and when they receive it. If voice and choice are things we all want, then we should be thinking about how we can provide them to others.


Starting the year off right!

@MrBrettClark 0 Comments

I am going to try to take off my educator hat and put on my parenting hat for this post.  I am doing this because my kids went back to school this week.  My oldest son is the 4th grade and my middle child is in 2nd grade.  My youngest is only 3. So he gets to stay at home and terrorize his mother.

I must take a moment today and blog about how much my oldest son's teacher has impressed me in just three days of school.  First of all, I got an email from her on the second day.  I have to be honest with you, I have received plenty of emails over the last few years and they have not all been good.  My oldest is very bright and creative but he can also be stubborn and disruptive.  In other words, he's a typical kid.  However, the email I received from his teacher told me how smart and funny my son is and how excited she is to have him in class.  I was instantly won over as a parent and I was sure to tell my son about the great email I received from his teacher.  His eyes lit up and huge grin came across his face.  I think she has won him over too.

But wait...there's more...

So I come home yesterday from my school and my son runs to me to and starts telling me as fast as he can about a project they are doing for science. He's got his group and they working on an experiment.  They are going to test their experiment on Friday and he couldn't be more excited. In fact, he kept bringing it up all night long.

Every night when I put my kids to bed, I try to spend a good 10-15 minutes with each on just so we can talk.  It's important to me that I spend time with each of my kids individually. Of course, last night Micah wanted to talk to me about his experiment.  He talked to me about how he knew other groups were using some of his group's ideas in their project.  I asked him what he thought about that.  He said that was fine because they were using other people's ideas too.  He told me, and I quote, "I think everyone is using other groups' ideas and then modifying them to what they think will work."

I'll be honest with you, as a parent and an educator, I teared up a bit last night as we spoke.  From a parent's perspective my son's teacher has shown me that she cares about my son and wants to communicate from day one. It is awesome to hear my son talk to me about collaboration, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating after just three days of school. My son is excited about her class and is already wondering about what next week's project may be.

Let me also mention that this entire project is only happening at school because I send my kids to a school that believes school is school and home is home. My kids had no homework, text books, or letter grades last year.  All they asked was that we encourage our kids to be kids and to read with them daily.  I can do that.

I know it's early, but this year is certainly starting off right!