Regardless of what title you hold or role you play in your organization, there is something in you that knows that no matter what good ideas or strategies the experts generate for making education better in this country, those ideas go nowhere without leadership.
Over my career I have facilitated the development of some excellent strategic plans. A few were successfully implemented; most were not. The plans did not succeed or fail based on the strength of the ideas and strategies that were contained within them. No, the key element in whether they succeeded. or not, was directly related to the effectiveness of the leaders who were charged with making them reality.
Experience has taught us that being a leader is not only about our ideas, our strategies, and our vision; these elements reflect the mind of a leader. It is not about our title or our authority or having a great personality, or being a moving speaker; although people sometimes mistake these elements for leadership.
“Leadership is not about having a magnetic personality -that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not about making friends and influencing people – that is flattery.” Peter Drucker
People are ultimately inspired by a leader’s presence and way of being. Aristotle spoke of ‘ethos’ as a type of leadership in which a leader influences others to change their values and thus their performance. ‘Ethos’ is not what a person says or promises, but it is their way of being in the world, their presence and comportment that affects how others follow them and whether they are open to their ideas.
There have been times in my life that I convinced myself that if only I could “fix” the people that didn’t “get it”; the world would be much better. The truth is that in order to transform education we must look no further than our own ‘ethos’, our own presence…our own selves. We can’t shift the responsibility for leading to anybody else. We need to hold ourselves accountable. Recently, I’ve watched a middle school art teacher in one school and a middle school library media specialist in another, lead the dynamic transformation of their two schools. The good news is that all of us can learn to be great leaders.
I understand this is not a message we hear very often. In fact, the educational institutions over which we preside, have trained us to look for important answers outside ourselves. We have been trained to look for insights, tips and techniques that we can employ with little effort to help us succeed. Fortunately, there is wisdom within us that knows tips and techniques are never enough; and having insights about ourselves is a long way from changing our behavior.
“Wanting to reform the world without discovering one’s true self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns. It is much simpler to wear shoes.” -Ramana Maharshi
At the heart of every great school are leaders who inspire others to their own greatness, that stir passion and commitment, and make the impossible, possible. Effective leadership requires that leaders regularly turn inward, and listen to the wisdom that each of us carries within us. So often this inner voice is drowned out by the noise of our busy minds, our busy days.
From this place of peace, this place without fear; we feel our life’s purpose, we recognize our gifts, and sense the possibilities that are there for us and those we serve. If we are serious about change then we must engage the person most critical to the future of teaching and learning in this country. You already know who I’m talking about.
Are you ready to step into your own greatness?