By Jay Wilson, Department Head and Associate Professor, Curriculum Studies & Fellow at the GMCTE
As a result of a number of encounters this week my thoughts turned towards the important role of leadership in educational institutions. Here I will share the reasons why I think leadership is valuable. The thoughts are not groundbreaking or especially new but it is important to remind ourselves why strong leadership makes our organizations successful.
The characteristics that true leaders possess are instrumental in the success of our institutions. The list of traits includes many descriptors such as mentor, advocate, and champion. To put things in context, people need to know that those of us who work in public institutions are inundated with a variety of factors that may influence our work as teachers. Pressure from those who do not understand our process or our content can be immense. The outside lens that ranges from casual observations to formal ratings, can attempt to undermine our life’s work. Without a true understanding of our world the general public may see us negatively as a result of the opinions of others.
It is during these times that we are reminded about the importance of strong leaders. It is their job to understand and reinforce an institution’s mission or objectives. They are able to tune out the negative waves and remind members of an organization why what they are doing matters and why it is important to follow the plan. Leaders build confidence in teaching staff by reminding them that what they are doing matters and in the end those who do not have a clear picture will be surprised by the results. When a strong sense of confidence exists, teaching staffs are empowered. Confident faculty members take chances for the benefit of their students and innovate for the health of their institution. Leadership develops, fosters, and maintains this confidence. Organizations without good leadership move back and forth searching for a better way or trying to please others. Mentorship is also a key trait of good leadership. It involves working with those who have a new or creative idea. Not saying “no” – but saying “why not” – builds a positive spirit in an organization. Advocacy is important. If we do not look after each one of our staff and value their contributions then we are missing out. Bigger and brighter is not always the answer. The programs that exist to fill an important role need to be protected and maintained. Good leaders recognize this need. They promote and protect which is not always the easy choice. Riding along with successful self-sustaining projects is not leadership. Helping instructors to grow passions into programs that support and nurture others is a true sign of leadership.
Keep these thoughts in mind if you are in a position of leadership or aspire to be in one. Your job is to be active and involved to support people and programs.