Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What is a Leader?

One of the biggest challenges of uni last semester was studying two different subjects simultaneously. I found that with all the other responsibilities in my life, (such as parenting and work), it was sometimes difficult to get my head around the readings and assignments for two different subjects.
This semester I am again tackling two different subjects. I have already blogged a little about ETL501 'The Information Environment'. It is now time for me to turn my attention to ETL504 'Teacher Librarian as Leader'.
This subject concerns itself with the general concept of leadership, dividing it into three main areas: organisational theory, strategic planning and communication. It is up to me, as a MEd student, to apply these topics to the role of the teacher librarian (TL). My first job is to consider what I already know about leadership.
Obviously, I don't come to this subject from a vacuum. I have experienced both being a leader and being led in many different contexts. I have also already read some of my textbook, Leading in a Culture of Change: Personal Action Guide and Workbook by Michael Fullan, and reading 1 from my study guide, 'Leadership' in Enhancing teaching and learning by J. Donham.
So, what do I know about leadership?
What is a leader?
A leader, to me, is someone who has expertise and experience in the area in which they lead, thus commanding a certain level of respect. They have vision, passion and enthusiasm for the project or organisation that they lead. They can communicate their vision, passion and enthusiasm to others. They can inspire and motivate others to participate. They work hard and lead by example. They listen to advice, feedback and criticism. They are able to incorporate new ideas into their vision, are flexible, responsive and able to change as necessary. They combine a clear statement of purpose with an ability to adapt as circumstances require.
Great leaders allow members of their organisation to develop their skills, meet their potential, and move into leadership roles. Their members share, and contribute to, the vision, values and goals of the organisation. Leaders continue to learn, grow and develop, and so do their organisations and members. They are organised, allowing them to be both focussed, and able to see the big picture. Leaders don't get stuck on details, they are able to move foward. Great leaders don't plow over the top of everyone else in the process. Leaders sometimes lead from the front, sometimes 'muck in' in the middle, and sometimes bring up the rear, making sure that noone gets left behind.
Leaders need to be able to make hard decisions and know that sometimes 'the buck stops here'.
Most importantly, leaders need to know which of these myriad skills are needed when, and respond approriately to constantly changing circumstances.
Leadership is a hard gig!
In regards to 'organisational theory' I must admit I am fairly clueless. I've always thought of myself as a well-organised person (capable of being well-organised at the very least!). I think of organisation in terms of 'everything in its place', setting goals, having lists, and being aware of relationships between different parts of the whole.
In terms of 'strategic planning' I guess this refers to the fact that leaders must plan strategies and sub-goals to achieve their vision.
It is easy to see the importance of 'communication' to leadership. Communication between the leader and the group as a whole and as individuals is vital, as is communication between members of the group, and communication between the group and the outside world.
What about me?
Simply virtue of the fact that I am both a parent and a teacher, I am a leader. I also seem to have naturally fallen into a lot of other leadership roles in my life. I've been a student leader, a youth group leader, a Bible study group leader, a Playgroup leader, a Sunday School teachers leader and a volunteer community group leader. I've also been in other groups where people have looked my way when the subject of leadership came up, but I managed to wriggle my way out of it! (Why? I can only have responsibility for so many things before I risk burnout.)
What is it about me that makes me a natural leader? What qualities do I have?
I think the most obvious are:
  • Optimism, vision, passion and enthusiasm. If I'm involved in something, it's because I truly believe in its importance.
  • Ideas. I'm good at coming up with new ideas and different ways of looking at things. I'm good at playing devil's advocate, asking the hard questions, and looking more deeply at issues than others perhaps would otherwise.
  • Work ethic. I'm responsible and get things done.
  • Communication. I'm a good talker (!) but I'm also a good listener. I really want to know what others think and what their ideas are. I really want to incorporate as much good stuff as possible.

I'm going to shut up now. I'm looking forward to any comments that come. What do you think makes a good leader?


Alex the Girl said...

Holy cow, just reading this makes my head hurt. I can't imagine what yours is going to feel like after this semester is over.

What makes a good leader? Fair and partial treatment to those being led. The ability to create a line between friendship and leadership within your group and keeping on the leadership side of it. Not allowing your personal feelings about those you are leading color your opinion in a personal manner i.e. person in your area may rub you the wrong way, but it is a personality issue, not a job issue. Just because you won't be that person's "good buddy" after work doesn't mean that person can't get the job done.

Good luck this semester. It sounds like your plate is quite full.

Fiona said...

Ha Ha I hope I don't give all my readers a headache!

Thanks for your comments about what makes a good leader.

Fiona :)

Witch Baby said...

Good Luck with the classes.

And for you question - What makes a leader good? A person who knows what they want to do and knows how to inspire, educate, and motivate. A person who is knowledgable about the topic at hand.

To do this you would be required to have anything/everything ranging from creativity to communication skills or you must have charisma to draw people with those skills to you.

Fiona said...

Thanks for your response to my question.

Fiona :)