We have wondered about the number of times someone has had a discussion about leadership in general as compared to the number of times a person has sat down and reflected on what makes him or her an effective leader. We would venture to guess that general leadership discussions far outweigh self-reflection regarding leadership skills. We think this is problematic.
In order to lead others, doesn’t it just make sense that leaders need to understand themselves as leaders first? We challenge leaders to sit down and think, “What makes me an effective leader? What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses? What could I do to be a stronger, better, more productive leader?” Understanding yourself as a leader is key to being the leader you want to be.
What makes you an effective leader?
Let’s begin with the question, “What makes me an effective leader?” If you can’t just start listing multiple leadership qualities or attributes and supporting those with reasons why they are important for effective leaders, then you probably have not put a lot of thought into the question. We think you should.
There are many ways you could begin looking at yourself as a leader. From a broader perspective, you could simply consider if you find more enjoyment in management-type tasks or working with the people to address student needs. Both are necessary skills, and neither is better than the other. However, chances are one comes more naturally to you than the other, and you are probably just better at it.
One quick way to think about this is simply by looking at where you spend the majority of your time. If you would rather be behind your desk, surrounded by piles of paper, you might prefer working on management tasks. If you would rather be out and about, having conversations and interacting with others, it is a good guess that you prefer to work with people. Once you decide, you can begin to think about why you have this preference. You can also think about how you can use what you know to improve yourself as a leader.
Effective Leadership Attributes and Why
You could take a more critical look and list specific attributes that you have that you consider to be positive ones for a leadership role. It is a solid start, but remember it isn’t just about the attributes; it is also about the why. Why do you believe they assist you in being an effective leader?
One leadership attribute that we deem as necessary is trustworthiness. People who exhibit trustworthiness deliver on the promises they make. When they say they are going to do something, they do it. Their trustworthiness is clear both in what they say and what they do. If others do not have trust in you as a leader, you will not be an effective leader for very long.
Effective leaders also have a visioning ability. They are able to use this to move others positively forward. They are able to assist with creating a collective vision: one in which everyone understands and knows what to do in order to be a part of that vision.
Another attribute for effective leaders is having an open and honest communication style. Effective leaders are able to adjust their communication in order to ensure that there is understanding in both delivering and receiving messages, even in communications outside of the school or district. This includes difficult conversations as well as celebratory ones.
This is a short list of skills and attributes of effective leaders. We are quite aware that the list can indeed be rather lengthy. However, working on a long list can be both intimidating and ineffective. We would encourage you to identify a few strengths, realize why you consider them strengths, and be aware of when you bring those strengths out to help you lead. Capitalize on them and grow them. Once you are comfortable with them, then focus on a few more!
Effective leaders are necessary in our schools, and effective leaders grow other leaders. If you would like more detailed advice on how to grow yourself and how to grow others, we recommend reading our book, Stronger Together. We truly believe that everything is better when we do it together, but it has to begin with you.