Amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.
As we examine today’s most successful leaders, there are some obvious key characteristics that serve as the foundation’s cornerstones that we can highlight and adapt to our own situations:
1. Present an inspiring and compelling mission. Instead of merely “working to get better,” outstanding teachers constantly communicate the group’s shared goals. While elevating the standards, they create an ongoing awareness of various ways to support their vision. The long-range goals are always at the forefront of their communication, allowing the students to focus on the self-imposed behaviors required to achieve the organizational mission.
2. Demonstrate proven disciplines necessary to create group synergy. The emphasis is on the “power of the people” rather than the strict authoritarian rule of the teacher. The energy of the students serves as the fuel for forward motion. Discipline is an outgrowth of the commitment of the group members; instead of “being told what to do,” the students are challenged to develop their own parameters of behavior that will support the program from bottom to top. Positive discipline renewal comes from an ongoing series of group questions such as:
- What is working well for us and why is it working?
- How could we better serve the people, the group, the goals?
- What behavior will best support those around us?
- What behaviors are counterproductive? How can we alter them?
Blame is discouraged; solutions are encouraged.
3. Put people first. The young students are the source of unlimited growth and development. It becomes the teacher’s responsibility to unleash the knowledge, creativity, and talent inherent in every member. This requires an ongoing interaction among all who are associated with the program; an open and honest line of communication confirms the teacher’s concern for the welfare of the students.
4. Model a high degree of self-responsibility. The “do as I say, not as I do” theme is not as effective in today’s educational setting. It is important for the teacher to take responsibility for mistakes and to share credit for successes. Modeling is still the most potent method of teaching and leading; therefore, it is imperative that the successful teacher demonstrates trust, appreciation, caring, and concern. The master teacher and/or educator understands that it is not necessary to have the answers to all questions, but that strength often comes from saying, “I don’t know. Let’s find the answer together.”
5. Have high expectations for results. The modern-day successful teachers are both people-oriented and results-oriented. They focus on the dual task of “taking care of people” and “creating results through those people.” While accepting who people are, they do not accept behavior that does not support the goal of quality. This delicate balance is an ongoing learning process; it is constantly changing, shifting, becoming.
6. Create a culture of quality through leadership/modeling. One of the most difficult challenges is to establish of a positive learning atmosphere that encourages the members of the group to contribute without fear of embarrassment, reprimand, pain, etc. If the students assume a defensive posture to protect themselves, it becomes impossible to access their creative potential; however, if the teacher consistently models a forward-focused discipline, a remarkable shift in attitudes, energy, and performance can be felt. There will be dramatic improvement recognized in every facet of the classroom environment.
This article is adapted from the book “Everyday Wisdom for Inspired Teaching” by GIA Publications, and reproduced with permission from Tim Lautzenheiser.