A non-judgemental or blame, name and shame attitude: There is nothing worse than being critiqued and judged constantly by a leader or supervisor. People put time, energy and effort into their job often going beyond what is expected. Therefore, to be met with judgement, blame or shame is like a stab in the chest. Leaders need to be people who look for solutions for the future, not someone to blame. After all, people are all at different ages, stages and emotional states.
A team player who knows their people: A dynamic leader is someone who can listen to and accept the advice of others. This is interesting, as I have often watched leaders listen to ideas and opinions take them away and select their decision anyway. I understand that this is an aspect of leadership but knowing what to listen to and when is key. People were given a job for a reason. They come with certain expertise, experiences and skillsets. A good leader draws upon these for the benefit of others. Getting to know people and working with them is key to developing good leadership. If you know people and build that relationship, then you will know how they tick. What works for them and what triggers them? Dynamic leaders have a sense of who is on their team and how they can be best utilised.
A clear and strong vision: This is one that I find probably the most important aspect of leadership. Know where you are going and why. What is the end game and why are you trying to get there? Vision drives action. Great leaders have a strong vision that is evident in what they do and how they act. Is it visible and lived, not just written or thought. People need to know that vision so everyone is heading in the same direction.
Achievable and measurable outcomes for all: There is no use having these amazing ideas and never following through. You cannot also jump on board every initiative that sounds good. Smart outcomes and actions need to match the vision. They also need to be attainable and suited to people’s needs. We often speak of the kids needs and how they drive everything. Shouldn’t it be the same for teachers? Shouldn’t what is implemented be achievable for staff members too? We have all seen leaders who implement unachievable, unrealistic and unmeasurable outcomes for teachers. When this happen, stress levels sky rocketed, people feel confused and stressed. This is not forward moving. Meet the needs of the staff and school were they are at. Set those small achievable steps along the way.
A leader who gets their hands dirty: There is nothing worse than hearing decisions and directives from leaders who are not in touch with the reality of day-to-day, face-to-face teaching. Leaders, who sit in meetings, make decisions or order people to do things. This is what creates a gap between all parties. People will often comment how their leaders do not understand their job. Decision, that while may be in good faith, place more stress and pressure on the people who are left to carry them out. This is not what teachers need from a leader. We need leaders who are in classrooms. We need leaders who know the community, the students and their families. We also need leaders who know us. Know what we face. Know what we deal with. Know what challenges we encounter. A great leader does that. They are in classrooms taking groups, helping teachers plan, giving advice and modelling. Coaching as well as tackling any difficult situations. Some of the best leaders that I have seen are the ones who are in the front line and dealing with issues that help alleviate pressure and stress on teachers.
A clear communicator: There is no use having an amazing vision or idea and it is not communicated clearly. Communication breakdowns are common on the work place. It is often the biggest cause of work place stress. Being out of the loop, not understanding things or simply not knowing causing huge anxiety and unnecessary stress. An excellent leader can combat this. They get their ideas across and can make it clear what is expected and why.
A balance between being a big and little picture thinker: This one is a challenge. To be able to balance the bigger and long term picture with the smaller or administrative tasks. Big picture thinkers have the vision. They know why they are heading in that direction and how to get there. Dynamic leaders can balance these two elements to move forward in order to meet needs, targets or goals. They also know who can help them with their little steps as well as the big concepts.
A compassionate person: Teachers are humans. We have family issues, divorces, problems with kids and illness ourselves. One thing that an outstanding leader needs to have is compassion. Teachers need to be shown compassion just like students and families. Sometimes it cannot be helped if an appointment needs to be in school time. At times, we all need to support a family member or close friend when they are ill. After all, teachers get ill too. We are exposed to more germs than the average job! A lack of compassion can bred disharmony and a sense of disconnection. No one wants to be told to do everything in his or her school holidays. Compassion from a leader goes a long way. People remember when you showed it to them and if you need to address a negative issue, there is still some good will in the bank.
A leader who actually holds people accountable: This may seem like a strange one. However, when people do not follow expectations, guidelines and procedures it creates discontent for those who do. Some people do the right thing, turn up to events and follow school expectations. Then there are those who don’t. If you don’t hold people accountable, it creates a sense of injustice among those who do. Whispers start and things can snowball from there. As adults the occasional hiccup is excusable but when staff members chronically don’t live up to standard, most people would like a sense of accountability. Now do not get me wrong. I do not want people hauled over the coals. However, I would like a sense of fairness and equity. I have been in situations where some people chronically shirk responsibility and the result is a sense of injustice, people tend to change their attitude. “If they can do it, why can’t I?” and that is the sort of thinking that you do not want in schools.
The leaders in schools often have an impossible job. There is always more to done, more problems to solve, actions to take as well as plans to be made. Great leaders are essential to any school environment. We need dynamic leaders who inspire everyone. It sounds like this is not realistic. However, with the right mix, dynamic leaders exist. They are out there. Do you know a dynamic leader and what makes them amazing?