20 June 2011

360 Degree Leadership, Part 2

The second myth was the very next one in the list, “When I get to the top, then I’ll learn to lead.” This reminds me of the parable of the talents when the worker who is given a single talent decides to bury it so he will not lose it. As a result, the master is displeased with him. However, the others who had a little more, made their talents into even more. The master says to them, “You have been faithful with a few things, now I’ll put you in charge of even bigger things.” Leaders must learn to lead before reaching the top. Experience teaches best of all. Who is going to make the decisions concerning curriculum? An inexperienced “yes-man” hired by the Department of Education? Rarely will that happen. The best person for the job would be someone who has a little bit of experience but has the capability and ideas to affect change on a wider scale. That describes someone who has been leading from the middle.

There are many challenges faced by someone leading from the middle. Colleagues may be intimidated by a young (or just new) upstart coming in with new ideas, affecting change. Being aware of these challenges ahead of time can save a lot of distress and angst a less informed middle-leader might experience.

One of these stood out to me the most: “The Ego Challenge, You’re Often Hidden in the Middle.” As a teacher, it does feel easy to be lost in the middle. It is kind of a squeaky wheel situation. You begin to wonder, “Will I ever get noticed for my hard work?” Honestly? Who cares? I am not in this job to get noticed by anyone other than my students. I was selected as Teacher of the Year by my colleagues this year. That was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I am not the kind of person who enjoys being in the spotlight. I tend to be a behind-the-scenes person. However, when my many of my colleagues told me they voted for me because of what they heard students talking saying, I began to feel as though I was doing something right. Honestly, it gave me a huge boost in self-confidence, although it took my “self-pressure” to a new high, as well.

If teachers are teaching for the right reasons, they should be “leading down” to their students and not be worried about whether or not they are being noticed from above. Mr. Maxwell gives several strategies for dealing with this challenge, the most important being to appreciate the value of your position. As a teacher, I am given the opportunity each year to affect change on the future by helping shape the way students view the world around them. I really appreciate that.

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