A group of dedicated educators met on a Saturday recently at the TCEA World Headquarters in Austin to try to find the answer to one important question: How can I be a better leader? From SIG (Special Interest Group) officers to district and campus administrators to librarians to classroom teachers, they were all interested in learning and discussing the qualities of great leaders and how they personally could improve. And that was the best news of the day, that leadership is a skill that can be practiced and improved upon.
Here are a few of the ideas that they found particularly useful on their leadership journey.
It’s All About the Vision
After some discussion, the participants agreed with the research that it is the role of the leader to set the vision for the organization and then involve the rest of the staff in determining how to reach that vision. In other words, the leader says “We’re going west to California and it will be amazing when we get there. The land is rich and we can be happy.” Once the vision is clear, then the team then helps the leader determine what route to take, how to avoid Indians and deserts and bad trails, where to camp, and what supplies are needed. But before the trip can begin, there must first be a clear and compelling vision, something that everyone can buy into. And it is the leader’s role to create that vision and then to unerringly keep it in front of everyone during the journey. A great leader has a vision that he believes in and constantly talks about. So the question to ask yourself is “What is my vision?”
The Difference Between a Level 4 and a Level 5 Leader
In Jim Collins’ Good to Great book, he shares what he discovered about the different levels of leadership from his research of companies who made the transition from good to great. In every case, Collins found that the most important component of the change was Level 5 leadership. Now, that’s a high bar to set. A Level 4 leader “catalyzes commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision, stimulating higher performance standards.” (Note again the important of the vision.) So what’s a Level 5 leader? The Level 5 leader “builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” In other words, Level 5 leadership is not about personality. It is about humility. It is about a driving, obsessive, compulsive ambition that isn’t about the leader, but is about the company or organization. So the question to ask yourself is “What level leader am I? How can I improve?”
A Leadership Assessment Tool
Attendees at the learning event also took time to conduct a self-assessment of their current leadership skills with the goal being to select one skill that they wanted to improve on. You can find the eight-question assessment here. For each statement, you are asked to grade yourself from A to F on the skill. Then you can select which one you will work on for the immediate future.
More Leadership Tips
At the Aha Moments board, participants shared other great ideas about leadership. Here are just a few:
- When staff come to you with a problem, don’t solve it for them. Ask how they would solve it and then discuss.
- Get an accountabili-buddy. Help each other improve and reach goals.
- Great leaders can control the chaos.
- Provide feedback and ask for feedback!
- Sometimes it is hard to know when you are managing vs. leading a team.
- Leaders grow leaders…trust them to work autonomously, independently in the mission of the organization. Go forth!
- Passion drives the best leaders. (All consuming passion.)
- A teacher can be a Level 5 leader, too!
- Different teams require different leadership styles. It’s not about me!
Join Us for More Leadership Discussions
TCEA will be hosting a free-to-anyone continuing discussions about leadership traits and how we can all improve. The next one will be held on Thursday, June 6 from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. CDT. Everyone will be sharing ideas and stories about their journey to Level 5 leadership, and we’d love to have you join us, regardless of where you are in the process. No registration is required; just jump in and start improving your leadership skills with us today!