by Christina Jennings
Over the years, I have been a testament to heads of schools that inspired, supported and believed in me. I have also been a witness to individuals who proclaimed to be leaders, wore the title of a leader, but was unwilling to do more than the absolute minimum.
So what was it about those leaders who made me feel empowered, take ownership of what I did and even more so allowed me to move forward, not just in my career but also in helping my students move forward with their own lives?
For me, there are are eleven characteristics that I believe make a leader an inspiration and an effective force among his team. These characteristics are as follows:
A leader who believes in someone fuels their desire to succeed. Believing in your teachers is a two way street. Teachers who perceive that their leaders believe in them tend to rise to the challenge, become inspired and dispense with doubts that often hold them back. They strive to make everything possible so that the leader may continue to believe in them.
Do you want to see a teacher light up? Praise them, either publicly or privately, praise them and watch their emotions, determination, and self worth rise. Be careful though, as your praise has to be genuine and at the proper moment.
Encouragement brings inspiration. Coaches have known this for centuries. What makes you think that if you don’t encourage your teachers they won’t want to win?
Open, honest and direct communication increases trust. Lack of communication between you as the head of school, and your teachers cause more problems than any other shortcoming you might have.
Teachers want to know that they stand for someone who will do what they say. So stop doing one thing while you ask your teachers to do something else. You will be characterized as a hypocrite and you will loose their respect.
Socrates, and I am paraphrasing, said that we never stop learning. So don’t forget to teach concepts and share examples with your staff. One of the best head of school leader, that I worked under, never actually stopped seeing herself as a teacher. She perceived every interaction as a teachable moment.
When you stand up for someone, or promote their abilities, you create loyalty. Teachers want to know that you have their back and that you will stand up for them.
In case you haven’t figured this out yet, micromanaging doesn’t work. Delegating is the opposite of micromanaging, it sends a strong message that you trust your teachers to do the job you hired them to do.
Your teachers will always look at you for support. It’s not enough to simply delegate something and walk away. You as the head of school, are part of the same team your teachers are on. So if you want something done, roll up your sleeves and dive in right along with them. Show them that you are always supporting them, even when they make a mistake, and their loyalty will only increase.
As a leader you are also viewed as a provider. It’s up to you to provide the right level of resources, support, and trust. You need to buy into the Montessori philosophy though. As Montessorians, we provide our students with the resources they need, we then allow them to forge their own road and innovative approach secure in the knowledge that they have been provided with the right tools to continue succeeding. It is the same with your teachers. Make sure you have provided them with the tools they need to succeed.
Your teachers are bombarded every day by people and events that drain their emotional, spiritual, and physical energy. A good head of school will block those negative influences that will drain their teachers. Block your teachers, from political correctness, and unnecessary bureaucracy. Give them the opportunity to focus on their work. They joined your team because they truly love being with children, not fighting battles with parents, board members, and other support staff in your office.
Someone once said that when we look at our staff what we ultimately see is a reflection of ourselves. If you want your teachers to be leaders or guides in the classroom be one for them!