“Confidence is crucial to effective leadership but so is humility.”

I enjoyed this article, “Why being wrong will make you a better leader.” It has many good points on why leadership is about doing right by those that you serve, as opposed to being seen as an “all-knowing” authority.  Confidence is crucial to effective leadership but so is humility. These two characteristics are not in conflict with one another yet are interrelated. Someone who is confident can step back and identify their weak spots, whereas someone who is arrogant would lack the same skill.

There are a couple of snippets that stuck out to me. The first is this:

Research shows that, when there is no effective process to gather decision makers into honest conversations about tough issues, organizations are three times more likely to have people withhold or distort information.

A similar study by Milliken & Morrison shows that 85% of employees feel unable to raise a concern with their bosses. Truth is forced underground, leaving the organization to rely on rumors, gossip or insincerity.

Do you promote a safe environment for people to speak up?

The emotional culture of an organization is as powerful as its cognitive counterpart. Pay attention. Silence is not the absence of fear but a consequence of it. Create a safe space where people feel confident to speak up without the fear of being ridiculed or punished.

I read this and thought about a moment as a principal that I still think about often.  In talking with staff about a particular initiative in school, I realized that my position and belief was in the minority on a specific topic in which I was extremely passionate about at the time.  During a staff meeting, we discussed the idea, and I had a tough time understanding their point of view and we discussed back and forth our differing opinions.  In the end, as hard as it was, I decided that it was essential to go forward with the staff on their position instead of mine, although I still disagreed.

It was a hard moment as I thought my position was ultimately was “best for students,” but as I stepped back, I realized that they felt the same about their position. I often use the term that we need to do we do what is “best for students” but not to use it as to justify my position over the viewpoint of someone else but to focus the conversation on what is important.

I talked with my assistant principal at the time, and she knew I struggled with our “staff decision,” but she assured me that I did the right thing.  If I was to ask the thoughts and opinions of others but would not be willing to act upon their feedback, why ask in the first place? She knew that this moment would give me more credibility, not less, and would open up more conversations in the future.

This quote also resonated from the article:

Great leaders integrate diverse thinking; they embrace people who provide different perspectives and ideas. Don’t risk your credibility by trying to have all the answers. Humility promotes honesty — people will want to share candid feedback and their best ideas, instead of trying to deceive you.

If we want to move forward in our schools, we have to embrace the idea that often the best answers are found somewhere in the middle, not in the extremes. When we create an environment that is open to differing opinions but keeps “what is best for students” at the center of our decisions we are more likely to create a space that is more about serving others than ourselves.

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