I am in the process of getting my Ed.S. in Educational Leadership. We are reading all sorts of books on the subject, and I find myself getting a little tired of the repetition in these texts. Here’s what I’ve learned about leadership from these books:

  • Great leaders are great people.
  • Great leaders inspire those who follow them to be great people.

Alrighty, then. In all of these texts, the emphasis is on maintaining personal and professional integrity, being a great listener, a risk-taker (but not too much of one), and having the confidence to create a win-win sense of collaborative/team spirit within your organization.

I can’t say I disagree that these are all wonderful qualities for a leader to possess. But I’ve noticed others.

  • Someone people can’t refuse. Think about it. Have you ever worked for someone like this? I’m not talking about the person who uses fear to prevent refusal. I’m talking about those individuals who manage to make every request sound like such a great idea, who manage to make you feel honored to have been asked, and who even manage to make you hope they’ll ask you to do this extra thing (might even be something you’re not getting paid for). I seriously need this skill. I seriously don’t have it.
  • Someone who lets others lead. This is critical. Great leaders know how to get the ball rolling and then get the hell out of the way. But not disappear. They walk that fine line between being absent and being intrusive and micromanaging. They give support when it is needed. But they trust others to do a great job. And most of the time, others do.
  • Someone who’s willing to do the dirty work. This is another biggie for me. I find it difficult to respect a leader who thinks he/she is somehow beyond a certain task now. Don’t get me wrong–obviously there are tasks that should be delegated and obviously a leader can’t be expected to do everything. But, especially in education, leaders need to show those they lead (usually teachers and/or students), that they’re willing to get their hands dirty too. I’ll give a personal example: I used to teach at a high school where none of the administrators did lunch duty. The task had been completely delegated to coaches and teachers. The message that sent to the faculty? “We’re too busy and important to bother with this.” On the other hand, at my last high school, not only did teachers and coaches do lunch duty, but also EVERY administrator, INCLUDING the principal, EVERY DAY. By the way, that principal also did bus duty every day. What message do you think THAT sent?

So, what do you think are essential qualities for effective educational leaders?

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