Philosophy of leadership 5


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Philosophy of leadership 5

  1. 1. Philosophy of Leadership 5 “Whatever you are, be a good one.” Abraham Lincoln “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” Lao Tzu “A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader; a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.” Unknown “Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and in actions.” Harold S. Geneen The idea of me being a position of leadership is a subject I have avoided a much as possible for many different reasons. The first, and foremost, is that leadership is scary. I prefer to be a behind-the-scenes person who sees my role as supporting rather than leading. I have strong opinions about the leaders I have worked with or see in public roles (i.e. presidents, members of congress, coaches, etc.). However, an armchair quarterback makes all the correct calls, the benefit of slow-motion replay, and is not dealing with the pressure of the situation. Being the person who has to make the decisions and effect change at the point of conflict requires more than I usually want to get involved with. Placing myself in the position where the buck stops is a difficult and challenging situation to be in. I also suffer from a lack of confidence which cripples many people who aspire to be leaders. All that being said, having completed three courses in Educational Leadership at Carson-Newman and interacting with current and future administrators, I find myself looking at leadership in a different light.
  2. 2. Leadership of a school is an extremely important role for a person to assume. Taking it lightly is dangerous for more than a principal’s livelihood because it is worth more than some job. Ultimately it is the potential impact those administrators and teachers have on a population who is more or less a captive audience. Children have to go to school and when a school has incompetent leadership it will have adverse, and possibly irreversible, consequences for those children. Dealing with people requires people who have a calling and not a desire for the easy road. Looking at myself in that role of leadership placed me in a context that required a long and hard look at what I valued in people who lead. Leadership revolves around individuals who are called into that particular field. Leadership does attract lots of effective people who approach their situation as more about them and what they can get. Great leadership on the other hand is founded on values and the communication of those values. The values I am talking about are the backbone of our military leader’s code of conduct (Lebouf, 1999). Putting others (i.e. weaker, unable, etc.) first, accountability, and pride in performance or giving the maximum effort you have are the values that great leadership displays at all times. Values tend to be defined by the character that you have developed throughout the lifetime you have had. Once you have defined the values you stand for then leadership works toward the collaboration component of leadership. A leader’s ability to collaborate is directly influenced by the time
  3. 3. spent reflecting on your abilities, decisions, and performance. Reflection leads to more effective and efficient ways of solving the problems that leaders face. Finally, a leader needs to realize that flexibility and adaptability is vital to maintain credibility when working with the members of a grade level, school, and community. Leadership is embodied in many different ways and performed in many different ways, but the keys to a great leadership are values, collaborative mindset, reflection of ideas and practices, accountability, and modeling action. Communication is the most important component to be an effective and influential leader. Communication comes in many forms as a leader. There a many ways a person communicates what they are thinking or seeing. Great leaders use all methods of communication to reach the people they are responsible for. Leaders communicate through their words and actions. The biggest and most effective way for a leader to communicate is through their actions. A person’s actions are the best way to get to know another person. Watching the way they approach people and problems can tell more about the values a leader has than listening to the words they speak. Through communication a leader express expectations for the kind of environment that is acceptable. This point cannot be made enough, leaders must set the tone for the type of environment that they want everyone to operate in. Great leaders establish open lines of communication where everyone’s opinions and ideas are valued. Not accepting what people put
  4. 4. forth is a sure way to alienate them and exclude them from helping the school move forward. People’s opinions are only valued when they are able to participate intelligently. A great leader uses communication by getting the whole group the information to make informed and relevant contributions to discussions. Communication must be a two way street, a place where people can participate and feel apart of the process. Leadership is not limited to being a general, CEO of a major corporation, or a principal. Being a leader can be at any level of any job or position a person finds themselves in. The person in a position of leadership must, to borrow a Greek phrase, “know thyself”. Knowing what you believe is the first step and the second is understanding why you believe those things. You have wrestled and worked out the why so that it becomes the core of who you are. Values will change over time and can be based on the situations or problems that are encountered. However, how you treat people, your integrity, how you follow-through, personal convictions, and your approach to situations are essentially the code of conduct you use on a daily basis. Your character comes out of you when you are put to the test, it’s just a matter of will it spill out or shine? Those values you have incorporated are the difference in regards to what people will see in you. Treating people the right way means to show them respect and being a good listener. Steven Covey said. . . “Seek to understand, not to be understood.” (Thornton, P., 2006). A great leader is one who does just that.
  5. 5. If the leader desires to be the one whom everyone looks to for direction the leader must gain the trust of the people he or she is leading. Gaining trust comes down to treat people the right way every time. It does not mean that each person gets whatever they want or their way; instead, they get the things that will make them successful in the school. The leader conveys the message “you and your opinion and ideas are important to me” in the words and actions they use as they interact with the people under and around them. This message comes through developing a quality ear for listening. Using techniques of good listening and trying to see from the other person’s perspective will help the other person begin to trust what the leader does and says. In a word a great leader is a servant leader. Robert Greenleaf coined the seemingly contradicting term ‘servant leadership’ to describe a unique approach to leadership (Spears, 2006). Essentially you put people first in all aspects, from listening to their concerns to growing them as people. This servant leadership is key in the development of trust and trust is an indicator of great leadership. Integrity and follow through are two characteristics of great leadership that instills confidence and trust in the ability of the leader. Many people can promise to fulfill an obligation, but sadly the world is full of talkers who say one thing and do another. A great leader holds himself or herself to a higher standard when they deal with people. Doing what you say can be difficult at times, but a great leader ensures that they follow through consistently.
  6. 6. Follow through is just one component of integrity. A great leader knows when to speak and when to think about an issue or concern. They are deliberate and careful about what they say because a great leader, with integrity, knows that he or she will have to follow through. Great leadership is exhibited mainly through collaboration with the people in a school. The school year will involve many decisions, many projects, and many directions. Having one person make all the decisions is an outdated mode of leadership for school and other private enterprises. A best practice style is transformational leadership which uses a consensus style decision making process (Gorton & Alston, 2009). Great leaders get others involved in order for them to buy in to the direction of the organization. Consensus does not mean a unanimous decision in order for progress to happen. Rather, the majority of people decide where they want to go and then find ways to make it happen. The leader gives everyone an opportunity to give their input in the decision and then moves forward when everyone gets the issue clarified. This method of shared, team-building leadership is how great leaders energize and motivate the whole group. Everyone knows that they will have input and can make a difference in the decisions. Accountability, the way the leader takes responsibility for what happens on his or her watch, is a key part of the foundation to great leadership. Passing the buck or blaming the people under the leader is a
  7. 7. sure fire way to alienate the people who will make or break them. This accountability is often the first step towards reflection. Being responsible should lead a person to thinking about what happened and why it happened. A leader also needs to pause and reflect about where they are going, how things are progressing, and how to improve when faced with future issues. The reflection process is vital to making a great leader because issues and situations are constantly changing. A leader must be flexible and adaptable in order to progress towards the mission and vision. Reflection ensures that continual improvement will be ongoing and that the leader will not grow stagnant, or become ineffective in their position. The flexibility and adaptability of a leader is key when dealing with collaborative situations. A great leader is someone who is confident in the people around him or her. That confidence is displayed when distributing the tasks of management and progress to subordinates. A leader who understands his or her role is willing to allow others to have certain levels of control in order to accomplish the mission. Putting people in charge of projects or aspects of the organization is another form of flexibility. This delegation of authority places the judgment component of leadership in the spotlight. Being able to pick competent people for assignments shows the level of trust and confidence the leader has in the people around him or her. A leader who has a transformational style will accomplish much during their tenure because it empowers the people around them to be creative and
  8. 8. exponentially more effective at their tasks. Great leaders realize one of the big keys to leadership is giving away power in order to be effective. Problem-solving is a large piece of the leadership pie. Great leaders are first problem-solvers. When challenges present themselves leaders begin a process of reaching a solution to the problem. This process is a combination many of the traits that make a great leader. They use the environment they have established to empower the others around them and involve them in the process. Encountering the many different kinds of problems requires thinking outside of the box and a willingness to be flexible in their thinking. Accepting the ideas of others and providing them the environment to reach conclusions that differ from the leader’s conclusion is collaborative in nature. Good problem-solving leaders use collaboration to empower others and develop them into problem-solving team members. Empowering the people around me to improve themselves and our school would be the major thrust of my leadership philosophy. The most enjoyment a teacher who is teaching because of calling can get is when a student gets that “ah-ha” moment. They understand what we have been discussing in class and finally connect the dots of that understanding with accomplishment. Better the people around me is one of the core values that I have. I do not desire to be in charge of everything and prefer people to work out solutions that make sense to them and are workable. Engaging the teachers in my building would be my highest priority. Getting them to reach
  9. 9. consensus and move toward a planned with everybody’s fingerprints on it would be a common practice in my administration. There are too many great ideas floating around in schools for me to completely ignore. It would be a serious mistake to think I am the end all of creative and effective thought. Listening to others is another key for me as an administrator. Teachers have ideas and opinions that should be thrown out there to see how they bounce. Parents are another key component to successful schools and my expectation would be to get them involved in the decision process. The students also represent an important part of the culture at the school. They are the reason we do what we do. The older the age group the more input should be solicited from them. Making them a part of the conversation at the middle and high school levels feeds their need to be seen as adults. As the leader of the school I want them to come to us with ideas and give us ways to improve the school. Buy-in is not limited to the people who get paid at the school. Students and parents are essential to my role as the leader. Great leadership utilizes all components of the school to emphasize the most important aspect of the school: the students’ opportunities to learn. Great leadership is a rare and difficult thing to come by in today’s schools. The difficulty is primarily a result of focusing on aspects of the school that miss point of education. We focus on money, home life, lack of resources, and other important-yet unimportant- problems. The focus of a great leader is the relationships that are built through a joint effort to
  10. 10. achieve a common goal. When servant-hearted administrators put into the culture of their school the idea that learning must take place and it is the process of how the student gets their, not what they got for a grade, then schools overcome those difficulties. Leadership is more the ability to communicate a mutual respect and a love for the people you are in charge of. When people know you respect and care for them they will run through a brick wall to accomplish what everyone has decided is important to the mission. Lead by example, lead with courage and integrity, lead through service to others, and lead by what you have learned through your development.
  11. 11. References Anthony, K. (2002). Educational leadership philosophy. Retrieved from Filson, B. (2006). Character: Is it necessary in leadership?. Classroom handout, May, 2010. Gorton, R. & Alston, J. A. (2009). School leadership and administration, 8th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill. Kulkarni, A. (n.d.). Leadership types and styles. Retrieved from Lashway, L. (2002) Developing instructional leaders. ERIC Digest 160. Retrieved from Leboeuf, M. (1999). Developing a leadership philosophy. Retrieved from Seifter, H. & Economy, P. (2001). Leadership ensemble: Lesson in collaborative management from the world’s only conductorless ochestra. [orchestra] New York: Times Books Spears, L. C. (2006). On character and servant-leadership: Ten characteristics of effective, caring leaders. Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership. Retrieved from %20and%20Servant-Leadership.pdf Thornton, P. B. (2006). Best leadership advice from 7 top leaders. Classroom handout, May 2010. Valenti, A. (n.d.). Five essential qualities of leadership. Classroom handout, May 2010. Wheatley, M. (1997). “Goodbye, command and control”. Leader to Leader, (5). Retrieved from Wheatley, M. (2001). “Innovation means relying on everyone’s creativity”. Leader to Leader, (20). Retrieved from