Thursday, March 17, 2016

What makes an effective leader

I read a Harvard Business Review post today about the most important leadership competencies. These were grouped into 5 themes:  ethics and safety, self-organizing, efficient learning, nurturing growth, and connection and belonging.

Ethics:  some of the highest rating attributes of leaders are high ethical and moral standards and communicating clear expectations, both of which create a safe and trusting environment.  In my cognitive coaching course I learned about how the limbic system in the brain works to let us know we are safe - and only when stress is low then people will be open to situations of high challenges such as innovation and creativity.  The HBR concludes that "making sure that people feel safe .... should be the #1 job for leaders".

Empowering others:  when I read this I thought about Daniel Pink's autonomy, mastery and purpose. An effective leader will provide direction and at the same time leave room for autonomy as people organize their own time and do things in their own way.  Empowering others to me also means distributed and sustainable leadership and is completely opposite of being micro-managed which is a stifling and suffocating feeling.

Connection and belonging:  we all want to feel we belong and that we are useful and productive members of a team or organization.  The HBR shows that emotions are contagious - watching something unpleasant happen to someone else depletes us emotionally whereas experiencing something good happening to someone else makes us feel good too.  Once our brains tell us we are safe, the next thing we crave is belonging and cared for.

Openness to new learning and ideas:  great leaders encourage critical thinking and trying new things rather than just sticking to the status quo.  They also appreciate that new learning may involve failing - the best leaders support risk-taking and help everyone to learn from each other's mistakes.

Nurturing growth:  when leaders show they are committed to our growth we are motived to feel loyal to them and to "go the extra mile".  At ASB I have really appreciated being nudged in new directions by members of the administration, and the time that our Superintendent gave last year to run before-school leadership sessions for anyone who wanted to learn and grow.  They were well attended - even though they started at 7am!  Even though I've been at ASB less than 4 years, I feel I have been encouraged to grow more than I have in the previous 20!

As I've moved out of the classroom and into more of a leadership position myself I am reminding myself to keep these 5 attributes in mind.  I hope the teachers I work with know that I'm principled, and that I value their ideas and am committed to help them to grow and move forward too.

Photo Credit: frankieleon via Compfight cc

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