Qualities of Leaders #3

Are there other fundamental attributes that distinguish leaders from ‘non-leaders’? For example, what special attributes do you have that differentiate you from your teachers? Or does it just come down to circumstance/experience?
I’m hoping this might be a useful reflection to extend your August streak.

I am grateful for this comment and questions from JP on my last blog post.  Its testament to social media that this kind of encouragement to share thoughts is (and should be) common place.  The questions, as JP states, are an opportunity to reflect on my own understanding and hopefully this reflection will resonate with others.

JP initially asked how the qualities of a leader differ from a teacher.  My response suggested that, in essence, there are no differences especially when considering that leadership is found at all “levels” within a school.  This prompted the questions from JP, above, and here are my responses:

For me there are four qualities that differentiate those in leadership positions.  Two are perhaps shared with people in a wide range of positions, yet can lead to greater effectiveness for a leader.  And two which are essential for a leader to have, for without these their leadership would stall and quickly become ineffective.

The first two attributes are Humility and Service.

Humility: It would be hubristic for me to write about what qualities I might have that differentiate me from the team of teachers with whom I work.  Humility is a quality that leaders ought to possess!  Naturally it would be for others to judge to what extent I exhibit that quality.

Service: Through 10 years of life as a Head Teacher, I have have found that the second attribute required by those in leadership roles is a desire to support others.  If your career path has provided you the experience that offers the opportunity to apply for, and achieve, a role as a school leader, then you need to recognise that you are there to serve others.  As a leader, your role is to ensure others can discharge their duties effectively, that they can develop as professionals and their sense of well-being and fulfilment is sustained and grows.

Humility and service are clearly attributes shared by both leaders and non-leaders.  We can all be humble and a servant.  Yet when they are demonstrated by those who have been given the privilege and responsibility to lead, then that leader, and their leadership, will be far more effective.

So, the two qualities that I feel do differentiate leaders from ‘non-leaders’, and are therefore more uniquely possessed by individuals in senior roles are Vision and Courage.

Vision: A leader leads people and manages things.  Your team needs to know where they are going and how they are going to get there.  This means that a leader must be able to structure and articulate a vision and continue to communicate how the members of the organisation (in a school: children, staff, parents and governors) can contribute to achieving it.

Courage: The buck stops with you.  The community looks to you for guidance and it takes courage to create and sustain a vision and direction.  When things get tough, you are the one to hold challenging conversations, listen to complaints and deal with the administration of the organisation.  Whether this is Finance, Health and Safety, Staff Performance or, most crucial of all, Safeguarding, you are the one who has to knuckle down and deal with the c**p when everyone else has gone home.

These are, of course, personal views on the most significant differentiators when considering the qualities of leadership.  However, in my experience, the most successful leaders that I have worked with or have known all possess these four qualities.  There are many others, but to be a leader these four are the most significant.


2 thoughts on “Qualities of Leaders #3

  1. Thank you so much for responding to my thoughts. It’s not my place to judge, but it seems to me that your willingness to share your personal reflections freely demonstrates your humility!
    You’ve struck on two differentiating qualities – vision and courage – that resonate strongly with my own experience.They also reinforce my belief that although we can help to nurture leadership skills in our colleagues and young people, there are also natural attributes that empower people to become confident and effective leaders.

  2. JP, I agree with you. I have found on many occasions that colleagues, and indeed friends, looking for advice, are surprised when I tell them “yes, you can”. I share your belief that leadership can be nurtured. We have a responsibility to show others that they can take on more responsibility.

    Whether colleagues or pupils, through coaching and professional development we can spot talent and we can work with individuals to give them the confidence to take on more responsibility. Moreover, we can create opportunity or enable them to develop their own ideas and projects for which they can be responsible.

    This is our role as servant leaders. As Lao Tzu is quoted as writing: “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s