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Leadership Style? Good Question!



This entry is cross posted to Sentiments on Common Sense.

Lately I have been asked more than once the million dollar question: What is your leadership style?

I find the question a bit loaded.

It is loaded with possibilities, opportunities and HUGE potholes.

The answer can be simple or complex.

My advice to those who are asked the question is to stage your answer carefully and place it in the context of your passion for learning and for leading.

For me, leadership is about connecting at a human level to the people that you are leading. Being seen as available, open to new ideas and a flexible thinker willing to consider alternatives while keeping your eye on the ultimate goal. Leaders must model resiliency. Leaders must have a vision for the future, but must be willing to creatively and pragmatically adjust and then deliver "the goods" for the organization. In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin talks about "shipping" being the act of meeting a deadline and/or a set of expectations. Leaders in the educational context "ship" the completed task or the "art" of educational wizardry. They "ship" the implementation of a program. They "ship" the staffing model to the students. Shipping, in educational terms, means bringing the organization to the next step or the next level.

In thinking about my leadership style and the style of those are leaders around me has forced me to consider my way of thinking and acting on the opportunities and challenges that face me in my work. Peter Drucker in his book about effective executives (strong leaders as I see them) has guided my thinking on this by helping me segment my actions into three catagories.

The first action is "data gathering".
This always gets the real numbers people excited as they see an opportunity to sharpen the pencils or get the spreadsheet program revved up. In my case this activity does not necessarily mean building a gant chart or a data table, but instead asking the important questions, becoming familiar with the issues and getting to know the people. After it is all said and done, this data gathering process gives me more information and access to the people in the organization. This is information and access that I need to move ideas forward or to address opportunities and challenges. In this process I ask myself after each conversation, 1)"What needs to be done?" and 2)"What is right for the school?"

In the second segment of decision making I look for ways to convert this information into actions.
I believe this is where many leaders become hamstrung. It is the inability of the individual to take the next "informed" steps that make them ineffective leaders. Drucker suggests that effective "executives"...

* develop action plans
* take responsibility for decisions
* take responsibility for communicating and
* focus on opportunities rather than on problems.

Finally, the third segment of my decision making process closes the deal to full implementation.
Ultimately, the strongest, most effective leaders ensured that the whole of the organization felt responsible and accountable to a decision, a vision or a direction. I am sure you can quickly recall where this has and has not happened in your school, and what the results were on both accounts. Effective leaders create this dynamic by running and facilitating (two different things) productive, insightful and interactive meetings. Meetings where participants gained insight, had input and were able to buy into a decision for the good of the organization. Effective leaders acted in thought, word and deed with the "we" in mind, instead the word "I". There is no room for the lone individual acting for only himself. Success is built on the success of the whole organization and is only as strong as its weakest part, thus "we" thinking is imperative for strong leadership.

Taken one by one, each segment of this construct would mean a lot to a school.

Taken as a whole would means that the organization will move forward and will make difference in the lives of the children and adults who work and learn in our schools.

One useful tool for looking at your own leadership style is the Leadership Resilience inventory from The Resilience Initiative. This seventy-three line inventory tool from the University of Alabama-Birmingham allows the survey taker to...

"reflect on your own leadership behavior in the face of adversity. All of the items contain statements that most leaders would find desirable, but we want you to answer only in terms of what your leadership behavior is actually like."

I encourage you to try it and think about your own leadership style and your "resilience".

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