Ask me not to do what I ask of you–Leadership and Reflection


December 17, 2015 by readlisaread

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership lately.  Not just the sort of Boss-Employee leadership, but the sort that includes vision, role-modeling, the Beingness of Leadership. I’ve never considered myself a Leader.  I can be bossy (don’t even worry about that), I can take control, and I can become quickly exasperated with a lack of leadership, but it’s not something I strive for. My strength is in collaboration, in being part of the collective, where we are smarter together than apart.  I am reminded of a quote I was to create, as an assignment in Grad school.  Ironically, the course was Leadership, and it was the course I was least looking forward to, and ended up enjoying immensely.  That is actually the dance I do with Leadership all the time–a form of social currency.

I cannot choose not to lead. If there is no one, then I must step into the breech—I must, it is who I am. If the leadership that exists is false, dangerous or blind, then I must step in front and force a change in direction—I must, it is who I am. But…If there is leadership authentic, right, and bold, then I follow and support—for that is the best of who I am.

Lately, as my job morphs and grows, I find myself in more situations with the opportunity to see leaders of all sorts.  Throughout my career I can think of different times I’ve been supported (occasional), thrown under the bus (more than once), encouraged (a very rare event indeed) and completely ignored (the most common). All of these scenarios have occurred in both my K-12 and Post-Sec environments. I think about my reaction to various Bosses, Supervisors, Department Heads, Principals, Deans and Superintendents, and I can see very plainly, finally, what my true definition of leadership is:  It is Being an Inspirational Visionary.  I don’t need to be told what to do, I need be given a purpose and a destination.  I have the tools, obviously, or I wouldn’t be in my position (see, that is the responsibility of the leadership– to build teams based on merit, expertise, skills). Part of being a visionary leader, a big part, is that willingness to take risks.  That does not mean risks with the company’s resources, that means personal ones. Recently I was in a meeting, with many repeat audience members from the year before.  Last year, the participants had been asked to do an “Elevator Pitch”.  This is currently a little flavour-of-the-monthy, trickling down from where I saw it a few years ago in Post-sec, but in any event, this room full of educators was asked to create a 2 minute “skit” presenting their idea.  As we approached the event this year, there began to be complaints and general fussing about the Elevator Pitch. The leader listened and revised and created a “safer” activity, which was equally valuable, if not as entertaining, and the crowd felt heard and respected.

But. But….. everyday, in classrooms those same teachers are the leaders of, they ask kids to do challenging, frightening, brave things (and evaluate them on it!). And so there are two parts: Listen, respect and refine, but also lead by example.  In the case of this year’s meeting, the leader did the right thing– “Because I said so” is no longer the best tool on your belt–but the participants missed an opportunity to be reminded of what it means to be a reflective practitioner. I don’t think it is accidental that “Vision” and “Reflection” are two sides of the most valuable coin in the realm of Leadership.



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