Why do we follow? 5 Important Leadership Traits

What makes us latch on to a leader? Why do we follow their ideas, presentations, tweets, and/or conversations? I always enjoy learning about a variety of topics related to educational technology, professional development, and education in general.  The last couple years I have had a strong interest in leadership qualities that promote a positive culture and innovation in schools. There are lots and lots of qualities that make a strong educational leader, however, I had 5 come to mind and wanted to share some thoughts about them.

1. Trusting. Leaders instill trust in those that work for them. They get things done when they say they’re going to. There isn’t really a “back burner” to put things on. We trust in our leaders to provide us with the tools, resources, and time to do our jobs to the best of our ability.

2. Valued. A leader makes their people feel important and valued; bringing out the best in everyone. As Liz Wiseman calls it in her book, it is The Multiplier Effect.  Focusing on extracting the genius and best effort possible from everyone.  Not being the only voice at a staff meeting. Seeking out expertise from their own people. Crowdsourcing if you will.  Being a genius maker rather than just a genius.

3. Empathetic. It’s always good to show empathy as a leader. Now we all know that leaders sometimes have to make difficult decisions that not everyone agrees with. This is just how it is. Despite not agreeing with your leader’s decision, when they show empathy that lets us know they not only understand, but they’re not going to leave us stranded without support and resources that are needed even in times of difficult decisions needing to be made.

4. Encourage risk-taking. As my friend Adam Bellow puts it, “Innovation is the intersection of fear and bravery.”. As a leader are you encouraging teachers (and are teachers encouraging students) to take risks? To be brave, bold, and step out of that comfort zone? We all need that type of encouragement. We’re in a different time now. Teaching and learning is different. Leadership is different. It should be. In terms of technology and social media I think of it this way: don’t deny the existence, invest in the potential.

5. Growth. A leader should first and foremost remain a learner. We all should be learners first if we’re truly about doing what’s best for our students. Encouraging teachers to attend an edcamp, build a PLN, and giving teachers time to learn from each other are essential. It’s not a matter of finding the time, it’s a matter of making the time; for educational leaders and those that they lead.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m sure many of you can think of additional attributes that are necessary for a leader to exude. In my opinion the five characteristics mentioned above are key to not only being a successful leader, but also empowering those that we lead.

What other leadership traits would you add?

Leaders to Learn From

Cross-posted at SmartBlog on Education.

Last month, I received the great honor of being recognized by Education Week magazine and the U.S. Department of Education as a 2013 “Leader to Learn From”. It was a tremendous honor to receive special recognition from Assistant Secretary of Education Deb Delisle and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The other 15 leaders receiving the recognition came from all around the country and the type of school systems represented was very diverse.

It was great to connect with these other educational leaders in the short amount of time we had together in Washington, D.C. We are making sure to continue to stay connected to learn from each other as we all recognize the variety of strengths we bring to the table. However, this got me thinking: if you’re a connected educator, a lifelong learner, striving to constantly be better no matter by what means, you are a leader to learn from. You have a lot to offer us. We need you.

If you’re a teacher that’s helping fellow teachers to grow professionally, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re modeling productive, positive, and creative technology use for your students, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re a principal that is modeling what it’s like to first and foremost be a learner, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re tapping into the power of social media for collaboration and communication, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re a district level leader that has a vision for the ways that teaching and learning are changing, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re a parent that offers unconditional support to your child, your child’s school and teachers, you are a leader to learn from.

If you’re a district that’s putting more technology in students’ hands to make its use more seamless in day-to-day teaching and learning, you are a leader to learn from.

This can easily go on and on. Sure, the 15 of us mentioned above received special recognition (and many others do all the time), but it’s making me more thankful than I already was for the thousands of leaders I have to learn from. Those of you that I have become connected with over the last several years. Those of you whom I have come to call my friends. I appreciate your constant offering of your knowledge and expertise to myself and so many others.

I would encourage you to share in the comments section on what you think makes someone a leader to learn from.