Who was the leader that you admired? Was it an athlete? Was it a President? Was it a school principal or coach?
What was it about them that you admired?
If we were to sit down and talk, we could probably come up with some common themes in the leaders we admired. My guess is they passionate, decisive, humble, strong, kind, and maybe even empathetic.
However, today we live in a different world and you have to be all of those things and more to be effective for 2020 and beyond.
Being a school leader in 2020 is harder than ever. The students who walk in our doors in kindergarten will likely retire around 2080!
Let that sink in.
The year 2080.
What will our world be like then? What will the workforce look like? What challenges will they face? What type of leader will we need in 60 years?
We could say it is impossible to predict, but I would argue that isn’t true.
I would argue that leaders in the future will still need three things to be successful. One attribute dates back to Marcus Aurelius and stoicism. One to business genius, Dale Carnegie. Finally, one to the author, speaker, and self-proclaimed “vulnerability” expert, Brene Brown.
If you let your ego and pride guide you, it will eventually lead to animosity and divided relationships and push people away.
Power, even in the smallest forms can go to your head. If you let power go to your head it will give you a false sense of “correctness” and pride. If you let your ego and pride guide you, it will eventually lead to animosity and divided relationships and push people away.
Humility kills pride.
Humility is at the center of being a good leader. It’s also at the center of stoicism and stoic, Marcus Aurelius. Aurelius would often deprive himself of things and inflict suffering on himself so he could remain humble.
As a school leader, we too need to remain humble. Listen to your staff, students, and community. Humility is a great tool for building relationships and bringing others on board.
Too often, people are told what they can’t do, what they aren’t good at. Instead, give them a reputation to live up to.
Give People a Reputation to Live Up To
Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, was originally published over 80 years ago. It is likely on the desk of every leader, CEO, and relationship expert around the globe. Classes are taught based on his book and I refer to it almost weekly when leading a school. My favorite lesson from Mr. Carnegie is the idea of giving people a reputation to live up to.
Too often, people are told what they can’t do, what they aren’t good at. While feedback is essential, Carnegie argued that you can flip it and get people to improve by giving them a reputation to live up to.
For example, if you are a school leader it is likely you hired a brand-new teacher in the last year. That new teacher is likely terrified, unsure, insecure, and feels as if they know little about what they should do. Carnegie would say that every interaction with this teacher is an opportunity to set them on the path to success.
Praise every success, and say things like, “You are such learner, I bet you absorb everything you can on education…” “You seem to have a natural way with kids, I wonder if you took a risk and tried co-teaching with Mrs. Smith, how much you and her would accomplish.”
By praising, encouraging, and building their reputation for them, you are setting them on a path to become that next great educator. Instead of criticizing, give them the carrot to chase.
In order for our staff to be vulnerable, we have to model it. We have to shatter the myth of perfection.
This goes along a little bit with stoicism, but basically Dr. Brown is saying that we have to share all of who we are so that our teachers are more likely to put themselves out of their own comfort zone. Adults are just big kids.
We are afraid to embarrass ourselves through failure. We don’t want to be seen as incapable. Our ego protects us from doing things we know we should out of fear. Ego can be a lifesaver and a tremendous handicap. The opposite of this fear and ego is vulnerability.
In order for our staff to be vulnerable, we have to model it. We have to shatter the myth of perfection. The perfect life. The perfect look. The perfect teacher. The perfect principal. We are all flawed and this idea of chasing perfection, burying our problems, and putting walls up around our flaws is the reason why we are where we are.
As a leader, share your failures. Own your mistakes. Model the risks you take and how they didn’t work out. By doing so we can open the doors for our teachers to be vulnerable as well.
When our staff is vulnerable, they will be open to help. To learning walks. To coaching. To reflection. With vulnerability comes growth. When we grow, our students grow.
So, check the ego, build the reputation you wish to have, and share your story of failure.
While the year 2080 is far off, the year 2020 is upon us. I encourage you to become the leader you admire because you can impact your school tomorrow and the world for decades to come.