I have been thinking a great deal about Educational Leadership lately, and not just from the administrator’s perspective. We often overlook the leadership that happens among peers and socially within a school. However, I wanted to bring to the forefront 5 traits that I think are essential in being an educational leader in the 21st Century.
- An Active Listener – If there is one thing that social media has taught us, and continues to teach us, it’s that people want a voice. The best educational leaders I know listen so deeply during conversations that you know every word is being absorbed and processed. This is an essential trait in a leader, as it is through deep listening that we can get to the heart of concerns and attend to the real issues at hand. Too often we find ourselves having superficial conversations day-to-day, saying ‘hi’ or ‘how’s it going?’ in the hallways. This is not bad in itself, but if these conversations are the only ones you have with your peers for any length of time, you loose the personal connection that is so important to educators.
- A Connected Leader – Linked closely to the point above is the ability to connect with many others in the educational environment. We no longer live in a vacuum in education; if you want to be connected, you can be. This applies to several facets of education; The most obvious example is the connections you forge within your own building, but what about the supports from your central or divisional office? These relationships must be cultivated as well, so that anyone from your community that needs support can rely (at least partially) on your connections and abilities to get them. This does not mean I am advocating for all teachers to work through you, but rather that in their work, you always have the ability to offer support. In our digital world, there are many connections to be forged through digital media, and I’ve seen many proactive leaders forging those connections to support their work.
- An Authentic Conversationalist – Effective leaders know how to have the encouraging conversations, and the behaviour changing conversations. There are times where a teacher’s actions simply do not fit with the policy and direction of a leadership team, faculty or division. We are in great danger of loosing momentum and gains if we as educational leaders do not at times engage in those crucial conversations to bring teachers ‘on board’ with what is going on in the school. While I realize contractual obligations prevent certain discussions, we can go a long way by forging strong relationships where these teachers respect our perspectives as well.
- Inspirational and Empowering – I don’t know if i’m inspiring, It’s not something you assess yourself really, but I know that I can empower teachers to be able to do great things. As a leader, this point is one of the key ones, that we are enablers of the kinds of teaching and learning we want to see happen. I try to take as many roadblocks out of the way for teachers doing great things and let them fly. Often, once they have a taste of the kind of teacher they can be, they will start breaking down their own walls. In addition to empowering, leaders that have solid beliefs about education, that create strong vision statements and craft a school culture around them, these are the leaders that people flock to in order to make a difference in the lives of students. If you are such a leader, post a comment, because I want to talk further to you!
- A 21st Century Learning Specialist – I know the difficulties some educators have with technology, that is not going to go away. I like the old saying, “Use your strengths and manage your weaknesses.” Educational Leaders that are well versed in the traits of the 21st Century Learner can attract and maintain those who are skilled in technology implementation and collaborative learning. While I see immense value in maintaining these skills for myself, those who don’t can still be focused on what they want to see happen in schools and put the right people in positions to be able to achieve it.