What is an Educational Leader? Well, let’s start with what is a leader? I seriously never ever gave this question any thought until I was in college for my Masters Degree. I registered for a class called “Leadership” – like who doesn’t want to be a leader right? This course was truly one of the best classes I had ever taken. This was before leadership was such a hot topic and we spent most of our time evaluating what is a manager versus what is a leader.
The very first thing we did was read The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli. It was never clear if this was a true practical guide for “ruling” or if it was a satirical piece about how not to rule. As a student I found this piece incredibly interesting no matter how you viewed its creation. From the perspective of how not to rule – we began the basis for what is leadership.
I am in an executive management position in education – however, I strive to be a leader but am required to be a manager.
What is a Leader?
- Responsible – a leader is not quick to pass the blame.
- Hard Working – this doesn’t necessarily mean 24/7 but it does mean that you don’t sit back and relax while others do everything.
- Respect/Kindness/Compassion – everyone deserves respect and the right to maintain their dignity. A leader should model that as well as instill that in others.
- Honesty – this is a huge one. So many people who view themselves as leaders in this day and age need a lesson in honesty. It seems somehow core values get compromised on the path to power. But Machiavellian power is not the answer – it contributes to the problem.
- Proactive – it isn’t just about being proactive with tasks, but also proactive with people. Anticipate their needs. If someone has suffered a loss – offer compassion, be generous, go the extra mile.
- Give when you don’t need to
- Stand up/Stand out – and Stand alone if you need to
- Do the right thing/Do it the right way
- Humble – don’t seek the spotlight. Do it because it is worth doing; it is the right thing to do.
- Recognition – pay attention. Recognize others for what they do.
- Empower Others – lift people up, give them responsibility and reward.
This is not an exhaustive list – but the gist is a leader is someone people choose to follow. I am sure you have known leaders in your life and I am sure you have known some that were NOT.
I currently work in education and so does my husband. I am on the business side as a business administrator and he is a school principal. We are both in positions of management but prefer to be considered leaders to both staff and students. In my case I work in an urban school district with poverty is prevalent and diversity is everywhere. Being a leader is so critical to our community and we work very hard to be what we believe they all need and deserve.
But I have also been in school and had amazing educational leaders – and some maybe not so much. I do feel I was very fortunate and had so many.
- Mr. Achtemeier – taught me that I could still be all that I wanted to be even with all the family struggles at that time. Taught me that I mattered and I could make a difference.
- Mrs. Pempek – who would have thought my favorite subjects would have become math and science? She built solid communities of respect.
- Mr. Fulco – he made English so much more than just a text. He brought creativity, individuality and respect to our world.
I have also worked with many educational leaders – true leaders and value their friendships to this day. A leader also should always learn about other leaders. We can always learn more and more and Ronnie Brown Mansfield is a great resource.