Teaching is leading. The skills, character traits and knowledge necessary to become a great teacher make them particularly great leaders. A good classroom culture is an environment that inspires every student to do their best, and good teachers just have it in them to establish effective learning systems, firm cultural structures, and integrated social norms. They can implement all these to ensure that their classroom is filled with only excellence and joy.
Good teachers bring the same ability to create a strong culture to any academic organization. They know how to build the systems, structures, and norms necessary to motivate colleagues, attract talent, build communities, and drive that community towards a collective mission. This is what makes teaching a true act of leadership.
If you’re aiming to be an effective leader and an effective teacher, here are eight characteristics of effective leaders that you can apply for yourself.
Great leaders are self-assured and very confident in themselves. There’s a famous quote saying that without confidence, there is no leadership, as self-confidence is the fundamental basis from which leadership grows. Trying to teach leadership without first building confidence is like building a house on a foundation of sand. More importantly, you simply can’t teach someone anything without being confident about the knowledge that you want to impart.
Confidence is the cornerstone of leadership. You can teach a leader to be an effective problem solver; more decisive; a better communicator; how to coach, mentor and hold team members accountable; and many other fundamentals of leadership. However, without that leader first believing in himself or herself, true leadership can only exist as a title. A leader that is technically qualified for the position, but lacks confidence, may find it difficult to lead others.
However, a leader must be able to separate confidence from arrogance. Arrogance is counter-productive for any leader, as he won’t be able to lead people without the well-placed humility.
No matter how creative and bright one is, the best ideas and thinking often comes from someone else. A leader needs to be able to identify that, and have to keep these good people around to generate those ideas. This takes humility, or at least lack of egocentricity. The leader is focused on the ends and doesn’t have to see himself or herself always as the conduit or creator of the strategy to get to that end.
Persuasiveness in Communication
There is little doubt that great leaders communicate persuasively. Persuasive communication is the process of guiding people toward the adoption of an idea, attitude, or action by rational and emotional means. Leaders have a knack for imparting the right messages, right way, and at the right time.
Strive to deliver messages that inspire, motivate, reassure, and, when required, direct. When you stir an idle organization into action with your communication, you have communicated persuasively, passionately, and honestly.
It’s also important for you to understand your audience. Your primary goal is to identify tangible benefits to which your targeted audience can relate. This requires conversations to collect essential information by asking thoughtful questions.
Ultimately, you need to reinforce your stance with vivid language and compelling evidence. Persuasion requires you to present evidence: strong data in multiple forms such as stories, graphs, images, metaphors and examples. Make your position come alive by using vivid language that complements graphics. In most cases, a rock-solid argument is also logical and consistent with facts and experience.
Sensitivity and responsiveness to others
Great leaders are sensitive and have an intuitive feel for the needs of their people. They understand what drives their members and demonstrate genuine concern for their welfare. Conversely, good teachers understand what drives their students so that they can apply it to improving their learning experience.
Think about the people in your organization and consider yourself a guardian for their well-being and success. Know what their motivations are and be responsive to it – if they are mainly fueled by their passion, then make sure that you can spark this passion into an engine for success. Be sure to also be mindful of their welfare. Don’t let them stumble on their way to success just because of unwanted hindrances.
Great leaders plan ahead and organize aptly. If you want to be a good leader, you should have a viable plan as you look into the future of your team. You should also be prepared with contingency plans in case something doesn’t get sorted out.
Additionally, leaders should be thoroughly organized. You can plan all day long, but if you’re not on track with an organized schedule or execution plan, you’re not getting anywhere.
Good leaders can use any tool, even in the scarcity of available ones. Similarly, good leaders can use any resource available so that they can lead effectively and efficiently.
It is not simply a matter of doing more with less — rather, what’s important is the realization that you can do more with more because you and your colleagues are more capable than you might know. Resourcefulness is not a means of coping with deprivation; it can be a virtue that opens the door to greater accomplishment.
Point to consider: take advantage of technology. If you’re a teacher with a laptop handy, do show your students videos, powerpoint presentations and other teaching aids just so you can teach more effectively. If majority of your students have their smartphone at the ready, take advantage of app-based teaching tools like the ones from Team Treehouse or TeacherKit so they can access educational material anywhere they are. Technology should be used to its fullest, and teaching, as well as leadership, shouldn’t ever be an exception.
Determined and Responsible
Leaders – and most importantly, teachers – should see things through to completion. Leaders should simultaneously track what may appear to be insignificant details and keep the larger picture in mind. They monitor anything they believe helps them achieve their goals. They don’t give up easily when things don’t go their way. See your projects through to completion unless you have a compelling reason not to.
Leaders should also be responsible. They should be able to take responsibility for their people’s performance. When things are going well, they praise efforts publicly. When things require attention or blocking issues arise, they find ways to fix things quickly and get things back on track. When you can do this without singling out people for errors, or assigning blame to others to avoid taking responsibility yourself, you’re becoming a more responsible leader.
Leaders develop a unique sense of professionalism about their image, their actions, and their communication. They conduct themselves in a way that sets them apart from their employees, yet, in spite of this separation, they still draw respect and admiration from them.
To distinguish yourself as a manager, lead by example. Dress professionally, be knowledgeable about your entire organization, and when you speak, speak intelligently. When you’ve cultivated your own managerial image and become comfortable with it, you would know that you are leveling up, because you can now walk the walk, and talk the talk as a manager without feeling self-conscious about it.
Passionate leaders are oftentimes the best optimists. They seem to invigorate others easily, and they enthusiastically dive into most things with calculated recklessness.
Your optimism, if genuine, can be contagious and can lighten up the workplace or study place. Avoid reckless and thoughtless actions, but do look for ways to passionately stimulate and energize people and make work enjoyable for you and your team. You would know when this happens, as things tend to be done more efficiently, and work seems more fun.