To paraphrase Miss Jean Brodie, it is a teacher’s duty to lead their students out of the darkness of ignorance. This implies that leadership is a major quality of a great teacher. If we are educating the leaders of the future, not only should we be role models as leaders, but we ought to develop our students’ leadership skills and attributes in our teaching.
So what is leadership and how do we develop our own leadership skills? Sometimes there is confusion concerning what is leadership and what is management. An excellent teacher ought to be both a leader and a manager. I believe management has more to do with task orientation, whereas leadership revolves around people orientation. Management requires planning, assessment, organization and recording skills. These skills are relatively easy to develop when an individual has a will to succeed and self-discipline. Because leadership involves people, this is not the case.
A leader carefully considers issues and problems and formulates plans and strategies to resolve them. Most problems are best solved using a team rather than an individual. So the leader establishes a vision and shares it with the other members of the team. The leader identifies the strengths and weaknesses of the individual team members and, ideally, persuades or inspires the members of the team to share this vision and work towards solving the problem. Communication and presentation skills are vital. It is an obvious statement that communication is a two way process, but all too often this concept is ignored or not understood. The leader must be articulate, persuasive and a great leader is inspirational. The leader needs to be a good listener and sympathetic. The leader needs to be observant and appreciate the views and actions of others. A good leader has a well-developed self-awareness, recognizing their own strengths and weaknesses and a confidence to celebrate their own and others achievements and admit mistakes.
Teachers ought to reflect on these leadership skills and see how they can be developed into their own practice as professionals, but also, crucially, how can they be introduced into their own teaching so as to benefit each one of their individual students.