Thursday, November 11, 2010

Inspiring, Encouraging and Empowering Leadership

Leadership is not just about what you do but what you an inspire, encourage and empower others to do - Jon Gordon
At lunchtime today I was involved in a student council meeting with our Grade 2 and 3 students.  This was the first time we encouraged one of the students to lead the meeting, and he did a great job.  After the meeting my colleague and I were discussing student leadership and teacher leadership.  We decided that often when we talk about leadership we are discussing how we can be leaders as teachers, so that we can encourage the students to move forward and develop the skills they need.  Often we are not discussing leadership of the school at all.

Here are some ideas of what we felt we do as teachers to inspire, encourage and empower others:

  • We provide our students with a vision of the future and inspire them to be the best they can for that future.  As teachers we passionately believe we can make a difference and we want our students to know that they can follow their dreams to turn them into reality.  As teachers we also want our school leaders to have a vision of where education is heading and what skills students will need well beyond their years in school.  We want them to see how the world is changing and recognise how we are playing our part in developing exciting opportunities for our students' futures.  
  • As teachers we help our students to do better.  An important measure of our success as teachers is the successes of our students.  In the same way we would like our school leaders to encourage us, coach us and empower us to become better teachers.  Empowered teachers are the real reason for some schools being seen as excellent and successful and when we are successful and make a difference in the lives of our students, we would like our achievements to be recognised and celebrated.
  • Great teachers are leading innovations in education.  We are not focused on the problems that crop up as a result of trying something new, but on the opportunities that are out there for our students.  We like our school leaders to encourage us in these innovations.  Questioning the status quo is critical to innovation therefore we would appreciate being part of a culture of questioning and of challenging assumptions.
  • We encourage our students to be creative and to experiment and inquire as we know these are the keys to discovery.  We like our school leaders to recognise the importance of us as teachers also thinking outside the box and to support the actions we take as a result of this thinking.  Without trial and error and action, we, just like our students, will never know if our ideas will actually work.  Risk-taking is an attribute we encourage in our students and as teachers we like to be encouraged to take risks too.  Making mistakes is essential to personal growth, as we learn from our failures as we work towards success.  Learning comes about from taking action, from making mistakes, from feedback and from being given the chance to try again.
  • As teachers we encourage critical thinking and decision making in our students.  We try not to overly control our students but to allow them the freedom to choose what to do and how to do it.  As teachers we appreciate being given choices too.
  • Being empowered is not enough.  As teachers we have seen over and over again that we need to coach our students to reach their potential and to improve their learning and performance.  As teachers we would like support to grow and achieve more too.  We like to be inspired, to discuss what we are doing and to receive positive feedback.
  • Teaching many different classes it is clear to me that some classes function better than others as they are more able to work together as a team.  Great teachers build strong teams and a strong class spirit.  In such a class all students are important and valued.  A good team has to have diversity of thought, perception and experience.  This diversity leads to a cross-pollination of ideas.  As teachers we love being in strong and supportive teams too.
Photo Credit:  The Leader of the Sunflowers by

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