3 Things I Look for In a Leader

There are so many articles on what makes a great leader and being around so many great administrators, I thought about the people that made a difference in my career and helped me reach greater heights. It is a simple list, but sometimes the simpler, the better.

  1. They have your back.

    I remember early on in my career; I did something extremely dumb in my classroom that was innocent enough but had zero ill-intent. It caused no harm at all, but a parent complained and had set up a meeting with the principal and myself.  The principal assured the parent that it was nothing significant and that I had shown myself as an excellent teacher and had cared tremendously about the students.  The parent, walked out feeling comfortable with the meeting but the second they left, my principal said, “What were you thinking?!?!?!”  He knew I screwed up although I didn’t mean to, he made sure that I would be more thoughtful in the future.  What I appreciated was that he had my back with the parent.  He didn’t absolve me of responsibility, but he was kind and thoughtful in the meeting and knew that I just made a mistake and it was not that big of a deal in the big picture of things.

    There are many educators who are pushing themselves to be better for their students and with that, comes taking risks. If you have a leader who you know has your back, you are more willing to take those risks.

  2. They push you to become better.

    Although having your back is essential, it is important a leader pushes as well. When I hear teachers say, “My principal is great because they just leave me alone,” that is always a warning sign for me.  Growth will be limited, and many great educators have outgrown their leaders because they felt they had become stagnant.  It is great when you know someone supports you, but if you are not being pushed to grow, you may regress.  What great leaders do to “push” others is often adjust to the person in front of them. Some may need more pressure, while others may wilt under the same conditions. Either way, they find a way to bring out more in the people they serve.

  3. They care about you as a person first, worker second.

    I have had some personal moments in my career where my work was nowhere in my mind.  The best leader I had ever had knew I had some personal struggles, and encouraged me NOT to come to work and take some time to get better.  She had told me, “If you don’t deal with these personal problems, you are going to struggle at work as well.  Take time and get better. Your job will always be here.”  I never felt she was ever focused on the “bottom line” but always on what I needed to be better in all facets of life.  This made me go to the ends of the earth for her because I always knew she valued me as a person first and an educator second.  Little moments here and there, asking how you are doing, checking in, conversations about interests that have nothing to do with school, are investments that you are making people, and people, will always be your most significant resource.  This is a simple tip, but it is always a good reminder for leaders everywhere.

These are the things that worked for me, and I would love to know what your best leaders did to get you to achieve at your highest levels.

Simon Sinek Quote: “The leaders who get the most out of their people are the leaders who care most about their people.”

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