Are leaders teachers?

April 16, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Fern in NicaraguaPicked up an interesting article on leadership. Are effective leaders actually good teachers and servants? We’ve all probably had enough of the ego-fuelled leader who craves status, public adoration and well-stuffed pay packets at the expense of focusing on the people actually being led. If leaders were to think as teachers do, then what they would have in mind is setting a vision for students’ achievement; reflecting constantly on student performance; inspiring students and creating a nurturing environment of excellence and critical thinking. Servant leadership in other words.

The question becomes – is leadership inheritable or trainable? The article suggests both: some people are born with certain characteristics such as the ability to inspire, to motivate, to influence and create a compelling vision. And these characteristics are developed through actual leadership experiences. A good leader learns adaptability and flexibility in the face of unpredicted circumstances and makes sense of the surrounding context.

Of course, an inherent difficulty is leading oneself. If you’re not good at leading yourself through life, then I don’t see how you can lead others. This is about self-awareness, self-reflection and being able to honestly explore signature strengths and play to those strengths. In a previous post, I looked at Positive Psychology (PP) and the notion of signature strengths, which are divided into six clusters or virtues. Examples of signature strengths are: creativity; curiosity; social intelligence; self-control and self-regulation; modesty and humility; citizenship and teamwork; open-mindedness.

Leadership, from a positive psychology perspective, involves a shift in leadership style: from doing to people to working with and for people. This new style of leadership involves influencing the networks of employees (or agents) that proliferate in an organisation (or ecosystem). It is a fine balance between conventional direction of others and allowing emergence of dialogue and complex networks – it is paradoxical leadership. Contemporary leaders are guiding a complex adaptive system (ie the organisation) that exists between chaos and stasis (stagnation or death). Both PP and Complexity Science can teach contemporary leaders to dance between chaos and stasis; to appreciate that leadership is about mentoring, guiding and facilitating, not managing and controlling.

Mmmm….perhaps the thinkingshift-living-leadership-guide.pdf could help leaders understand that a new story is being created – the sustainable organisation, which exists in a wider ecosystem of reciprocal relationships based on trust and emergence.

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Entry filed under: Complexity, Leadership, Positive psychology, Sustainability.

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