I believe in collaboration. Effective leaders work among their people, not above them.
flickr photo via TerryJohnston
Barry Litun, a former Superintendent in my school district taught one of my graduate school courses in leadership. Something he said has stuck with me since taking that course. In describing how an effective leader fits into a high-functioning staff of teachers and para-professionals he said,
When people need defending, good leaders stand in front of them. When people are being celebrated, good leaders stand behind them. Most of the rest of the time, visitors to the school shouldn't be able to guess who the leader is.I really appreciate this point of view as an educational leader. I agree that good leaders in schools need to be bold enough to shoulder the responsibility for what happens in the school, especially when they don't go well. I also agree that good leaders need to be humble and willing to let others receive the credit for doing good things (a sidebar to this is that good leaders surround themselves with good people... and they believe all have potential to be leveraged.) Most of all though, I totally agree that good leaders know how to distribute the leadership within their schools by enabling others to play to their strengths and do what they well know how to do; they honor the teachers and para-professionals in their schools by letting them be their own leaders.
Great leaders want their followers to be better at what they do than they would be at doing it themselves. They serve their people without expectation of credit as just another piece of the puzzle required to make things work. I think folks appreciate these qualities in a leader; they appreciate the respect, trust and confidence that they receive, and they are motivated by these things to offer their best as well.
Effective leaders work among their people, not above them.