Friday, May 13, 2011

Learning about Leading from a General

I watched this TED talk by General Stanley McChrystal and was impacted by some of the words he said when thinking about leadership, listening, leading, and trusting.

How can educational leadership learn from these very military ideas, from an uber-military person?  Simple.

General McChrystal has some real poignant moments in his TEDtalk for me that got me thinking.

1.  Leaders can let you fail, without being a failure.

I was in a job interview yesterday and kept thinking about this statement.  A good coach, facilitator, administrator and/or leader is someone that will be there by your side.  They will be there watching you fail, allowing you to fail, facilitating the learning process, reflecting with you, but never let you be a failure.

Listen, I know, failure sucks.  But there is beauty in failure.  I learned about it the tough way and began to really believe in what I do day in and day out to make myself a better teacher and better person.

As a leader you have to allow for failure but most importantly be there for your students, colleagues and staff and support them through that process.  Great leaders can let you fail.  Great leaders will support you through trying something new in your classroom, being their for you to reflect and helping you get better in the end.  Failure is not a destination, it's often just a detour on the road to where you want to go. We often find that to ever truly succeed we must at one point fail, the key is to surround yourself with great leaders that support you through that process and celebrate your growth in the end.

Some great resources on failure and how to change your view and celebrate it instead of lament it:

Fringe benefits of Failure - J.K. Rowling

On being wrong - Kathryn Schulz

Then What.... - Frank Gehry

Kinder, gentler model of success - Alain de Botton

What's our take away from this?  

As a leader we must support those around us, celebrate their victories of course, but as those of us learning about leadership know, it's more important to celebrate the failures.

2.  A leader is the leader NOT because they are right, but because they are willing to trust.

A leader doesn't get into his/her position all on their own.
A leader is not a leader if they look behind them and no one is there.
A leader is a leader not because they call themselves one, but because others believe in them.

A successful leader must trust.  Being trustworthy is easy, giving trust away is hard.  Leadership in education or in any field requires those in a position of leadership to trust those that surround them.  The colleagues and employees, the roles and responsibilities laid forth in a job description, the trust that tasks will be completed in order to accomplish the goals of the organization.  Without trust there is no leadership.

Every interview I've been on has asked me; "What do you do if a teacher is not doing their job/meeting expectations?"  This is a tough question simply because without developing a relationship with this person it's hard to talk about trust, faith, and belief in the person that they can achieve the objectives/expectations of the position.  I always answer objectively and speak about facts but it's hard to speak about numbers and ideas without caring for the individual that this question is crafted for.

What's our take away from this?

Trust in leadership is all about empathy, can you be empathetic and effective at the same time?  The answer is a resounding yes.  And that yes is centered around the trust you build as a leader, trust in others and trust in the organization's success.

1 comment:

  1. Chris,
    Thank you so much for pointing me in the direction of this post. I have been thinking about the qualities that great leaders possess quite a bit lately so my ears perked up when I heard the General on CNN earlier this evening. I just finished watching his TED Talk which was essentially the same message he conveyed during the interview on CNN. Leadership is all about building trust. I think one of the reasons so many teachers leave education is because the do not feel like their leaders have faith in them. Perhaps a leader who does not trust is really a leader in name only.