One of the most insightful things that I ever read about leadership and leading a group of people, is that "leadership is less about your needs, and more about the needs of the people and the organization you are leading" (wsj, 2014). I totally believe that effective leadership continually needs to be adapted to the needs and demands of a given situation, the needs of the people involved and the particular obstacles that face the group as a whole. I believe that ultimately, a good leader has a repertoire or a toolbox of different leadership styles that he or she can use when a specific situation calls for it. Having different leadership styles in this manner helps one to continually adapt more rapidly and specifically to particular situations, empowering one to apply the most relevant tactic. I consider my own personal leadership style to be a hybrid or a toolbox containing visionary leadership, coaching-style leadership, emotionally intelligent leadership and creative leadership. Given the demands of an educator, the demands and requirements of the educational environment, it has been constantly necessary for me to develop and feel comfortable with a range of leadership methods.
Visionary leadership can be described as appropriate when a group, class, or school needs a new direction, moving people in the direction of a new set of dreams, goals and objectives (wsj, 2014). "Visionary leaders articulate where a group is going, but not how it will get there -- setting people free to innovate, experiment, take calculated risks," (wsj, 2014). I use visionary leadership when a group, class or school is way off kilter and needs to be steered onto a new path. Usually this happens when a school or a class of students has been on the receiving end of the poorest form of leadership for an extended period of time and their morale is low. For example, at one school that I worked with, there was a class of unruly students that has literally gone through eight teachers in six months. They were a truly difficult bunch, many of which originated from low income neighborhoods and broken homes. They disruptive behavior was often the result of the stress that they were receiving at home. They literally terrorized many of the teachers that were sent to teach this class. It got to the point that teachers would refuse to teach the class, and we had trouble even getting substitute teachers who were willing to go into that classroom. The situation had gone from bad to worse and was rapidly deteriorating. When I stepped in, I had a three hour meeting with all the teachers who had ever been involved, along with some behavioral psychology experts and some educational leaders who had all worked in the inner-city. Part of visionary leadership means working hard for the best possible outcome and that often means seeking out leaders who have expertise in areas that one lacks. This group setting allowed everyone to weigh in, to vent and to trade ideas on how to get these kids towards the best possible outcome while considering what was realistic and what was unrealistic.
Ultimately what we did during this three hour meeting was create a list of the most realistic goals that we could get this class of students towards and several plans (a plan A, B, and C) which were supposed to guide us there. One of the most effective strategies that came out of this meeting was the more experimental suggestion that team-teachers take over the room, so that all teachers felt like they had immediate back-up and support and so that the students felt less dominant in the room. This turned out to be one of the most effective strategies that we could have ever implemented.
In fact, even having me reach out to these other experts demonstrates one of my uses of another truly powerful leadership style, which is emotional intelligent leadership. One of the main pillars of an emotionally intelligent leader is someone who is self-aware. Being aware that I didn't have all the skills and experience necessary in order to adequately deal with this class and bring them back on the path of educational success and progress was one of the signs of self-awareness. "The ability to recognize and understand personal moods and emotions and drives, as well as their effect on others. Hallmarks of self-awareness include self-confidence, realistic self-assessment, and a self-deprecating sense of humor. Self-awareness depends on one's ability to monitor one's own emotion state and to correctly identify and name one's emotions" (Sonoma.edu). As a group, one of the aspects of that three-hour meeting that was able to help guide us to a plan that was eventually able to reach and positively...
Rather than talking about that challenging classroom as though it was just made up of a bunch of difficult, angry kids who were monstrous, we tried to use a certain amount of empathy in guiding our approach. The entire meeting was colored by the fact that we acknowledged how hard the lives of these kids had been and how nearly all of them had faced impossible tragedies in their lives, such as abandonment, the death of a parent, the death of a sibling, physical or sexual abuse. By forcing ourselves to acknowledge the emotional makeup of these kids, we were able to treat them according to their emotional reactions.
I've always found that emotional intelligence is one aspect of my hybrid-leadership style that I draw upon most regularly. Emotional intelligence creates a successful form of leadership "…by focusing on five essential elements of leader effectiveness: development of collective goals and objectives; instilling in others an appreciation of the importance of work activities; generating and maintaining enthusiasm, confidence, optimism, cooperation, and trust; encouraging flexibility in decision making and change; and establishing and maintaining a meaningful identity for an organization" (George, 2000). Emotionally intelligent leadership has always been so effective for me when working with other teachers because it validates a range of viewpoints and perspectives: it's a more inclusive form of leadership which encourages the ideas of other people and makes all team members feel valued. This is particularly essential when it comes to working with teachers, as teachers are used to being the leaders in the classroom environments. Thus, I've found that when working with other teachers, it becomes essential to make it seem like they're never being commanded to do something, but that they're part of a group think. Emotionally intelligent leadership means validating everyone's opinion and making everyone's voice feel head.
Another truly crucial aspect of my leadership methodology is a coaching form of leadership; this is also directly connected to my emotionally intelligent leadership style. As an emotionally intelligent leader, I have to not just be honest with myself about the direction the classroom or school is heading in, and being self-aware of my own strengths and weaknesses, but I have to be honest about the weaknesses and strengths of the team that I am surrounded by. One aspect of my leadership style is colored by a willingness to help my team members evolve and become the best that they can be: this is the coaching aspect of my leadership style, which firmly believes that the weaknesses of some team members really don't have to stay weaknesses forever. As a multi-dimensional leader, it is my duty to help all team members excel at areas that they might feel weak in. The coaching aspect of my leadership focuses on "…developing individuals, showing them how to improve their performance, and helping to connect their goals to the goals of the organization" (wsj, 2014). This is a tool that I've continually found to be effective in teaching because teachers often demonstrate initiative and generally crave professional development. However, I've found that it's also important to avoid micromanaging other teachers and to ensure that they never even feel micromanaged, even if that's not what one is doing. For example, some teachers that I work with need a tremendous amount of independence. They need to be coached in the gentlest way possible or else they feel micromanaged and resentful. Thus, I find that it's imperative to adapt my leadership style to the people I'm working with time and again.
The final leadership style that I use in my overall leadership toolbox is the tendency for creative leadership. Creative leadership is my most valued leadership style in my entire leadership toolbox as it helps me the most when dealing with parents, teachers and students, and consistently guides me towards thinking out of the box. Creative leadership allows me to provide solutions and ideas that connect with people on a more individual level and which are able to better harness the uniqueness and specificity of a given situation. "The role of a creative leader is not to have all the ideas; it's to create a culture where everyone can have ideas and…
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