I believe that each of us has a leader within and that educational leadership is not the sole domain of school administrators. I’ve see classroom teachers step up and lead incredible school transformations without the authority of a title or degree. But that’s a topic for another day. Today, I want to examine the not so secret, ‘secret’ among educators:
While every school has at least one administrator, few have leaders.
A recent workshop participant paraphrased Peter Drucker and said it this way,
“Administrators do things right. Leaders do the right things.”
While that simple statement captures some of the gulf between leadership and administration, I think it falls far short.
I have a long list, developed over many educational leadership seminars, that outlines the differences between administrators and leaders; but today I’ll start with the one element that seems to encompass so many others…
Leaders deal from their hearts as well as their minds; administrators work almost exclusively from the mental framework.
We’ve all encountered administrators who kick off the school year with speeches stating the districts goals and objectives, or by reciting well meaning mission statements; but it’s rare to find leaders who articulate a vision and inspire their staffs to embrace that vision.
Administrators are comfortable speaking from and appealing to the cognitive domain, hoping others see the logic of their goals and objectives; while leaders want to stir the hearts, as well as the minds of those they seek to lead.
It’s the power of the heart that injects a special energy into the team. Leaders who use their hearts and minds when they speak have an authenticity that creates trust. Administrators who speak only from their heads may say the right words; they may have perfect scripts; but they appear less authentic, less fully committed, and therefore they create less trust.
Without trust it’s difficult to lead effectively.
I remember the Principal at my son’s eighth grade graduation ceremony speaking to the audience of proud parents and students. His first words were,
“I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here with you tonight.”
Unfortunately, he spoke these words in a monotone with no emotion (heart). Even worse, there was no smile, no crack in his bland and blank façade. He continued this way through the entire speech.
While I have no doubt that deep inside he meant every word he spoke; because he closed off his heart when delivered his words, it destroyed his message. It reeked of an administrator fulfilling his job requirements, when it could have been a leader expressing gratitude to his victorious 8th grade troops and sending them off to the high school full of inspiration and hope.
Not every leader needs to be a charismatic speaker. Even speakers who speak haltingly and uncomfortably, if they speak from the heart, touch the hearts of those around them; their authenticity comes through and with that, trust flows. We feel their commitment.
One of the first steps in the transformation from administrator to leader is to access the power of the heart. Tapping into the heart shows up in every aspect of leadership, not just in speaking. It is a way of tethering ourselves to something deeper than just our ideas and thoughts. It ties us to our purpose, values, and beliefs.
When we work from this place, we’re grounded. We don’t change directions every time the political breezes shift. We are more apt to go the extra mile, even if it seems risky. We walk our own talk. We don’t have hidden agendas, they’re all out there for people to see. When we work from the heart, we don’t make decisions based solely on complicated political calculations; but we factor in our beliefs and values.
Most importantly, when we’re grounded in the heart, we have the courage of a leader. Interestingly, the word courage comes from the French root ‘cour’ or heart. As leaders we don’t avoid difficult conversations, or put off difficult decisions out of fear. We address them because they need to be addressed. The heart gives us the strength and passion to do the difficult things.
The transformation from administrator to leader is largely a journey of the heart.