Recently, I found this infographic from Butler/Till that explains the difference between a leader and a boss. This image was eye-opening for me as I began to associate the qualities of a good leader that I needed to continue to develop. I appreciated how this image could be used for any culture, public sector or private sector. I do not want to be a boss or an authority figure, but a leader that encourages and inspires my colleagues and students to have a growth mindset.
A boss is one-sided, and “it’s my way or the highway,” while a leader has an effective team that assists with driving decisions. An effective leader inspires trust and communicates fully with the team. Coming from a family of educators and being in education for almost four years, I have done copious amounts of listening and observation of my surroundings during my time at graduate school and educational career.
The biggest difference I noticed in this image included the concept of commands versus asks. With asking, a leader communicates the why of something with the stakeholder. Workers must be able to trust their leader and not be afraid of going to them with questions or concerns. In turn, leaders must wholly communicate and encourage people to grow; if these items are not part of a culture (whether it’s business, education, public sector or private sector) the environment will turn toxic, negative and people will be afraid and distrusting.
In a recent study group, I was directed toward a documentary from ABC News. Strawberry Mansion High School was considered one of the most dangerous schools in America. Fights, behavior and poverty rates ran high. The school had six months to prove it could turn itself around to stay open. The assistant superintendent could not find a principal to handle the school effectively, so she volunteered to be the principal. She cared about the students so much, that she wanted this task.
After watching the documentary, I took some time to reflect about why this person would go into a dangerous place to try and overcome a huge obstacle. Everything came down to caring for the students, doing what is best for the students. In the clip, the principal tells students she cares about them and loves them. The students want to learn and have a safe environment, but the school needed a leader to bring about this change.
What a task this leader had to tackle. Being a leader, there are times that situations are difficult to handle, but leaders need to take a step back and think about this: What is best for students? That should be the question and statement that drives all decision-making.
It’s about the relationships with students, and having students know that they are cared for and are safe. We might not know a student’s environment outside of school, and that is why it is so important to for all teachers, including teacher-leaders to:
- Treat each child uniquely and respectfully
- Put students first
- Leave personal things at the door and try your best to remain positive
- Be honest, kind and admit when you are wrong.