Jon Andrews wrote a very thought-provoking article last weekend about the tension he faces between the type of leader he wants to be, and the type he sometimes finds himself being.
I also struggle between being the leader I want to be and the leader I sometimes have to be.
I want to be a leader who empowers and supports teachers, who listens and consults, who doesn’t impose directions, but builds a collective vision that teachers buy in to and have ownership of. I want to support teachers, help them to develop professionally, pursue their passions and reach their goals.
But sometimes I have to be the leader who tells. Sometimes times I have to say “no” or make unpopular decisions that people may not understand. Sometimes I have to hold teachers to account and tell them to lift their game. Sometimes I need to impose deadlines or require paperwork that for me is essential but can appear to others as “administrivia”.
Leadership is like that. There are times when I have to make the hard calls. There are times when I get it wrong. There are times when I can’t be open and transparent because I am protecting someone’s privacy or dignity or both.
The only way I can navigate this tension in my workplace is by being the kind of person people can put their trust in. My integrity and values need to be on display for all to see: my willingness to receive honest feedback, my commitment to the wellbeing of both students and staff, to high quality learning, to excellence in teaching, to staff development and ongoing professional learning, to building strong, collaborative and respectful relationships.
I can’t demand trust from others, but if I act with consistency, to the point where people feel they are able to trust me, they’re more likely to support me in those times when I’ve had to make a call they don’t much like.
I’ll leave you with this TED talk by Onora Oneil on the subject of trust. We often want to demand trust from others, but as O’Neil points out, trust can’t be demanded, it has to be given.