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

3 comments:

  1. This bit really has me thinking, Brett, about my own classroom because if we took your leadership advice and suggestions and translated them into our instructional practices, we'd have the kinds of learning environments that our kids would both thrive in AND crave.

    The thing is, teachers have never experienced those same kinds of practices from THEIR leaders and teachers -- so we don't know what they look like or how they benefit learners.

    So we perpetuate the same kinds of teacher-centric worlds that we've grown so used to.

    For me, the current challenge is finding a way to do SOMETHING on your list in my classroom. I may not be ready -- or able -- to make it ALL happen, but there has to be at least one tangible change I can make this year to move towards this kind of leadership in my own class.

    Thanks for making me think,
    Bill

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    1. Bill, I couldn't agree more. It is hard to break away from the traditions of our youth. Especially the traditions of education and leadership which have changed very little over the last 100 years.

      Not only is it difficult for teachers and leaders to do the things you and I are talking about, it is also difficult for those we are leading to accept and adapt to having more control. As I've worked towards these goals myself it has been amazing the amount of resistance I have received from people.

      In the end, we must all find a place to start. For me, it started with me trusting my students to look at their own data and make decisions on what they needed to learn. I taught math remediation for three years. The first year I taught it, I looked at all my students' data, decided where they needed the most help, and planned accordantly. I was exhausted and knew there had to be a better way. So, the following year I walked into my math remediation class with no plans. Students researched their data, we conferenced about their needs, and they put together a learning plan for our class. I never added to or took away from their plan.

      It was difficult for both of us. I had never had so little control of my curriculum and they had never had so much. In the end, they learned more than I could have ever taught them traditionally. I would love to hear about where you go from here.

      Thank you for the kind words and I'm looking forward to seeing you soon,
      Brett

      Education Dreamer

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  2. If only I have a twitter account right now, I would retweet what Mr Clark’s shared on his twitter account. I like the idea about leadership wherein it is still based with your own willingness to extend an effort to everything. Well, in my opinion a team needs a leader and a leader cannot work without his team; obviously these two are always correlated with each other, in other teams they go together to finish a certain task.

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