If teachers or administrators had a choice, would they follow you? That question popped into my mind as I prepared for a meeting this past week. The wonderful Dave Burgess came to mind in connection and I couldn't help but think about that challenge question he included in Teach Like a Pirate: If students had the choice, would they come to your class? Shouldn't the same question apply to our leadership? As I thought more and more about that question, I was, first and foremost, encouraged by my own response (not answering in arrogance, but answering in self reflection) and then, second, it reestablished that point that true leadership is not a position or a job held. Here is a visual a I had retweeted awhile back that will help frame my ideas.
So manager versus leader. I am fan an of the square/rectangle metaphor and the phrase "not mutually exclusive" (on this blogging adventure I'll use those a time or two I'm sure), and I believe the former has a great application here. This visual attempts to assign specific qualities to the two titles as well as draw a pretty distinct line between the two. Looking at the qualities assigned to the two areas, I don't have a whole lot of argument and I think most people would agree (certainly not closing the door on conversation, though), although looking at it now there does seem to be a more negative impression given to the manager versus the leader.
My take away from this graphic and experiences is this very simple graphic. There are times in leadership where management qualities are a subset of what we do. I would say that in those moments where we
have to pull out the management qualities, how we handle them will have an impact on how we are viewed as a leader. As my little graphic also indicates, management does not make a leader. Much like the rectangle, who has some similar qualities as the square, it will never be a square. But, back to the initial question would people follow if they had the choice?
Goodness knows, because we have all had the experience, the person sitting in the big chair isn't necessarily a person we wish to follow and it could be for any number of reasons. As an assistant principal, I am in a position of leadership. I have been placed in a role where I have authority over others and power to make decisions, but it alone does not make me a leader. A title does not make one a leader. The way I choose to conduct myself, the way I treat people. the example I set, the passion & life I share and the vision I cast, I hope, will inspire people to join me in the journey. It is the people that choose to hop on board that make the leader. Our job is to get passionate and enthusiastic and set up an environment where people can take risks, be creative, be successful and enjoy the time they spend with us! Imagine if our school building was like Dave B.'s classroom! I think people would be on board with that!
I'll leave you with once more with the question we began with and would love this to be a conversation: If your people had a choice, would they follow you?