I don’t have a Masters degree in Educational Management or Leadership or any similar-sounding degree, but I would like to think that I have developed my management style by experience and by common sense.
- A leader’s goal is to mentor his/her subordinates to be better than him/her. Leadership is not in the hands of the few that continuity is sacrificed. Continuity is important in any organization so that leadership is given to a good mix of the “old” and the “new” generation.
- A leader has to constantly give feedback without sugar coating. Honesty is important. Everyone wants feedback. They look like they don’t, but do not underestimate those under your care: They actually want to know whether the paper they sent you is okay or not okay. Don’t delay the feedback; they appreciate hearing soon despite their nervousness to hear what you will say to them.
- Constantly receive and demand feedback from them. It’s not easy to take in negative feedback, but this is essential for your growth and theirs. As constructive criticism becomes an internal culture, everyone in the team grows—your members and you. A nice by-product is the elimination of backstabbing culture.
- You are not perfect. Apologize. In relation to the previous item, always remember that you are not perfect—that I am not perfect. The superiority complex of thinking that you are always right destroys the culture of openness. It doesn’t just destroy openness, but also creates a wall between you and your members. Your degree is just on paper; don’t throw your weight around. Learn to say “sorry” to those you have offended, or embarrassed.
- Empower those in your care and train reflective leaders. Know your people. Discover their talents, their interests, and strengths, and tap on them as need be. Even if you can do it yourself, delegate the task. Allow them to make mistakes, so that they can also learn from them. When you mentor them, you can train them to be reflective leaders, capable of identifying their own errors and correct them accordingly. In this way, you don’t even have to be the one to tell them; they will tell you.
- Respect others’ expertise. Key to a united team is not to trump others by questioning their decisions on their expertise. Maybe you just don’t understand their field that’s why you can’t see their point. Your Doctors degree does not negate another person’s expertise. Remember, too, that expertise is not necessarily just determined by educational attainment.
- Be a good example. As you try to train future leaders (because we know that some leaders are not born, but made), it is important that you serve as a model for what and how a leader should be.
- There’s a time for everything. There is a time to laugh with your team members, and time to be serious. Know when to be friendly, and know when you need to put your foot down.
- Think like a parent and friend. See your members as your own children. You cannot play favorites. Scold them when they need to be scolded. Comfort them when they need to be comforted, treat them to a simple meal (food always marks celebrations and sharing), cheer them up, surprise them with little things. See them as both as a parent and a friend.
- Empathize. Do what they do. Put yourself in their shoes. It is important that you know where they are coming from. Be sensitive to how they feel when you scold them (maybe you misjudged them), when you joke around with them (maybe it was a bad joke), when you give them a task on top of their workload (maybe you have given him/her the same task every time), when you play favorites especially to your friends.
I am not a perfect leader, but I believe that these are the things I thought an effective school leader should be. I could be wrong. I drew these from my experience of being under a superior, from hearing complaints of colleagues, and from seeing how other leaders are. I may not live by these principles 100% of the time, but these guide me in my leadership.
After you have trained them to be better than you, what’s next? Let go. Let go of your position, so that there will be a free spot on top for them to fill. Sense of fulfillment—priceless.
Common sense leadership? In the end, it might not be as common after all.