What do you think we ought to introduce to young people as the most essential leadership qualities? Out pupils are at the start of their journey in this rapidly changing world, so how can we effectively direct their experience and understanding as they make sense of it?
Ultimately, we wish our children to grow up as decent, kind, intellectually and socially engaged individuals; keen to contribute and be productive in society. In order to do this we want them to gain experience in all these areas by the time they complete their journey with us at school. Yet the contemporary concept of leadership requires careful thought and application when introduced.
So when it comes to transmitting key messages on strong, effective leadership or the characteristics of good leaders and role modelling to others, distilling the essence and expressing this succinctly (unlike this sentence) is key. Especially for my Year 8s.
Therefore, at the start of a new school year (just), I thought I would dispense my years of collected wisdom. Or rather summarise as succinctly as possible and get to the core quickly. Not for them a long diatribe on the qualities of leaders through the years. I felt I should forgo waxing lyrical about Shackleton or Cyrus the Great or other notable historical figures. Instead, and hopefully more appropriately, a brief synopsis of 2 key books and then 4 key qualities that, for me, summarise everything a leader needs to possess.
The 2 books are Built to Last (Jim Collins & Jerry I Porras – on sustainable corporate leadership) and The Six Secrets of Change (Michael Fullan – on change management and taking people with you). I shan’t elaborate further, but do commend both of them to you.
Empathy: Emotional Intelligence, NLP, good communication, listening skills: whatever the contributory factors, building rapport and sustaining relationships is a cornerstone of effective leadership. Whether this is with direct reports or with your bosses, understanding people and the world around you, and all this entails, is essential for strong leadership.
Humility: Recognising that as a leader you are a part of a larger system, albeit a significant part and possibly architect of that system, is the next quality. Suppressing ego, leading as a servant, giving and not just taking will give greater satisfaction and resulting in lasting impact.
Flexibility: Strategy and planning are essential – a clear, unambiguous vision are non-negotiable. However, leadership requires acceptance that both internal and external factors may have an effect on the direction you take to achieve that vision.
Resilience: Finally, of all the characteristics that are put forward, arguably the most significant is coping with all that the exposure of the role of leader throws at you. The politics, the pressure, the knowledge that you are generally alone as a leader as far as decision-making is concerned all lead to the need to be mentally and emotionally strong.
I am certain, in fact hopeful, that there are other characteristics that ought to be introduced early to young people. I am interested in finding out. What do you think?