5 Traits of Successful Leaders
Every person in your organization has innate and learned leadership skills. Superintendents and building principals must have an acute awareness of each individuals’ talents and leverage them for the benefit of the organization. If you understand what institutional barriers are in place that act against coordinating these efforts you will be more successful in breaking them down. In doing so you will create a culture empowered to take responsible risks and support innovative approaches to solve the complex issues your school or district may face.
As a school leader you have a daunting task yet one that is necessary. Now, more than ever, your transformational leadership is required to ensure schools across this country are prepared to meet the challenges they face and here 5 traits of successful leaders.
Be True to Yourself
A leader is a person who others naturally gravitate to and through this connection, improve the leadership and productivity of others towards completing the organization’s goals. A leader must have full awareness of your staffs’ strengths, limitations and you must have the courage to recognize your strengths and weaknesses as well. There is no doubt that you will be tested professionally and personally on every decision and action you take. You must be clear and consistent in your espoused and enacted beliefs on what is best for the organization and how you intend to move the organization towards the direction you seek. Stay true to your personal and professional convictions and you will find others will invest in you and your leadership.
Put People over Processes
No organization will be successful until the leader surrounds the organization with talented and committed employees. Human capital is the most important asset to any successful and sustainable organization. This is also the most difficult area facing talented leaders yet absolutely vital to success- or failure. People trump processes. As a leader you are directed through policies, statutes and expectations to follow certain processes. Processes are important. They provide a clear “road map” for others to follow to ensure efficiency of actions. Clearly understood and identifiable processes enables each person in your organization the ability to work more efficiently. As a leader you will find situations where processes may bump up against what is best for your personnel. When this happens you must be willing and able to assess these barriers and change them. Always remember your personnel will be expected to carry out the processes and your responsibility is to ensure they have every chance to be successful. If procedures or policies act as barriers to leverage your organization’s human capital- change them.
Have a Plan
Once others believe in your convictions and commitment to the organization they need to know you have a plan. Be specific as to the goals of the organization, processes for collaboration, have a distributive leadership framework in mind. Identify and explicitly lay out the steps to execute the plan. Once this is accomplished your staff can visualize action. Be consistent. Do not misunderstand consistency with inflexibility. Others will invest in you when they feel convinced you are consistent in your belief structure and approach to complex problems. Transformational leaders embed continuous feedback processes and the flexibility to pivot when necessary. If your actions are inconsistent it will create a heightened environment of anxiety limiting or eliminating others to invest in your direction and leadership.
Communicate and then Communicate Again
Communication is the key to getting all the moving parts working in synchronized fashion. A leader communicates conviction, purpose and commitment every minute of every day through actions, decision making as well as the typical communication mediums. Above all, leaders understand listening is the most important factor of being an effective communicator. The message is more important than the medium. As a leader you must be open to input from others, process that input and make the changes necessary to ensure success.
The role of a leader can take on a life of its own and should be prescriptive and not descriptive. As a leader everything you do prescribes what you believe in yourself and others. Your title alone will not describe leadership. Effective leaders are grounded in what is most important to their personal life and do not sacrifice those commitments. A lifespan of a leader will be cut short if they do not balance their personal life (self, family, spiritual beliefs). You will be tested on every front and may likely question what you are doing and why when it feels like so many want to see you fail. You will have to revisit the Be True to Yourself section. You are a leadership position because you have the disposition, talent and conviction to lead others. Leaders who can balance their personal life and professional responsibilities will not only have the energy to be more productive but will also model this balance for others. People are watching and will trust you, follow your lead and find balance in their lives when they see you living out what you expect of them.
Every one of us is a leader and the only separation among us is the differing levels of responsibility. Transformational leaders mobilize the greatness in themselves and in others. When you internalize and enact these tips you will be a more successful person, father, mother, friend, and colleague. The leadership legacy will be measure in your ability to empower others. Find the greatness in yourself and others for the task before you is important.
Dr. Scott Springston’s Bio: http://scottspringston.com/ Dr. Springston is the Chief Collaboration Officer with the education consulting firm Strategic Education Collaborators (www.scottspringston.com). He spent 23 years in public education with 9 of those years as superintendent of schools. His education, experience and passion is in sustainable leadership development.