As part of the preparation for the Teach First Leadership Development Programme’s Summer Institute (5 weeks of intensive training to prepare for the start of the LDP), I attended a pre-summer institute event in London which involved a range of sessions to introduce us to the programme and different aspects of it. One of the sessions I attended was on leadership and what qualities define a good leader, and that is what inspired this discussion post.
By definition a leader is:
‘A person or thing that holds a dominant or superior position within its field, and is able to exercise a high degree of control or influence over others.’
– The Business Dictionary
Leaders are often stereotyped as being stern, controlling, demanding and dictator-like; an assumption is made that these qualities produce results, and those of high standard. However, a good leader is someone who isn’t limited by these negative traits, but rather someone who is quite the opposite. When reading up about leadership in schools, I came across an article in the Guardian about the traits of a successful school leader. After interviewing headteachers from around the country, they found a good school leader encompasses the follow:
- Emotional Intelligence
But when you think about it, these are traits a good leader in any environment should have. It doesn’t matter if you’re leading your friends, a small team, a large company or a country; as a good leader, you should have each of these qualities in you to some degree in order to achieve, meet or exceed expectations and make a difference that sticks. A great example comes from a talk by Simon Sinek, best known for his motivational TED talks. In the video below, he presents his ‘Golden Circle’ idea – the key to being a good leader and excelling and achieving greatness when others fail to – by using Apple Inc. as an example.
If I could summarise it, it’s the ability to be able to show other people – your team, your clients or customers, your class – your passion and your purpose for making a certain decision. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” he says. By showing empathy, passion, a sense of the world around you – your ‘why’ – you become more able to inspire action, and inspire others to follow what you aim to achieve.
All in all, a good leader isn’t forged in an environment where they are surrounded by demands and pessimism, they aren’t forged in an environment where they feel fear or anxiety towards their leaders. The environment may be positive, or may be negative and in need of serious change, but a passion for change or to make something better is what drives the individual to become a good leader. As a results, these individuals inspire greatness and enthusiasm in those who follow, forging greatness out of them. It becomes a cycle: a good leader inspiring the growth of another, and on and on.
Your goals could be small, achievements unmeasurable on someone else’s scale and meaningless to another person. However, by sticking to these – believing even if it seems impossible or decades away from achievement, even if you’ve only made 1% progress – enduring and always keeping that ‘why’ in the picture is something you will see throughout history, when thinking about the best leaders we’ve had.
I’d like to end this post with a great quote I heard on Sunday from a Teach First ambassador, who is now a headteacher:
‘Because good leaders are not measured by the impact they have, they are measured by the impact the people who follow them have’
– Marcus Shepherd