What is great leadership?

As the presidential inauguration takes place this Friday, leadership has really been consuming my mind. Donald Trump is our President-Elect and holds the most powerful leadership position in our country.   For the past few weeks, we have watched him put together a leadership team which will become his cabinet.   News outlets have been leading by providing information regarding the election, the cabinet and the upcoming inauguration.   Friends and family consume my Facebook feed with their thoughts and opinions around this election and their views on leadership come through without ever using the word ‘leadership’.  Twitter accounts of leaders all over the world are showing their “leadership” in 140 characters or less!  Leadership is truly all around us.

Needless to say, my mind has been swirling regarding leadership and everything that I have learned about it over the past several years.  Reading books about leadership have consumed me the last few months.  Leadership is a fascinating topic of discussion and as someone who is a leader of a high school, good leadership is of the utmost importance to me.  So, what makes a great leader?   Perhaps this question is more subjective than I originally thought.  What I believe makes a great leader, may not be what others believe.  This felt like my opportunity to truly identify what my beliefs are regarding great leadership.  My top ten beliefs for great leadership in education are:

  1. Leadership is not a title.  Leadership is serving others.  Leaders can be a child that helps to shovel a snowed in driveway or an adult that pays for the coffee of the car behind him in a drive thru.  If you are serving in a way that genuinely helps others, you are leading.
  2. Lead with your heart.  We’ve all heard in education, “They don’t care how much you know, until they know you care.” This isn’t just true for students it is true for adults.  Take the time to know the staff so they know you care about them as a human and not just an employee.
  3. Acknowledge people.  When someone walks into your school or classroom, greet them with eye contact, a warm smile and a handshake.  It’s amazing how far a small gesture will go in building a relationship with them.  Everyone wants to be seen and validated.
  4. Be compassionate.  Before ever attacking anyone for anything, whether it be a student or a teacher, stop and think what baggage they may be carrying with them that day.  Don’t jump to conclusions, seek to understand.   
  5. Explore their needs.  Make sure students and teachers have what they need to be successful.  You don’t always know unless you ask.  Find the time to ask.
  6. Model what you expect.  More that is “caught” is not taught, it’s modeled.  Actions speak louder than words and everyone is watching.  Teaching is not telling no matter what your age.
  7. Be open to feedback.  To quote a tremendous leader, Flip Flippen, “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”  When you receive feedback, just say thank you.
  8. Communicate that you care before you communicate your message.  This can go a long way when leaders have to communicate something that isn’t always fun to discuss.  There doesn’t have to be conflict to confront and issue.
  9. Affirm. Affirm. Affirm.  Never let a day go by that you don’t write, text, email or say an affirmation to someone, even those hardest to affirm.
  10. Empower others.  Leadership doesn’t mean you do everything all by yourself.  It doesn’t mean you take all the glory.  Share the leadership on large tasks and most definitely share the glory with those who helped make it possible.


5 thoughts on “What is great leadership?

  1. It is a timely topic and it warms my heart to remember all the leadership we have in place in our schools right now who are doing these things. Even when outside our buildings seems chaotic, our schools can be a place of caring and exemplary leadership!

  2. Hi Kristen
    I’m sharing some of the Leadership posts this week on twitter. Do you have a Twitter username I can use when I share your post?


  3. Your list of qualities is wonderful for anyone, but especially for a great leader, which you surely seem to be!

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