Being in Charge vs. Leadership: What’s the Difference?

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As you may know, I am an ongoing reflectionist.  There are scant times that I don’t reflect on each activity in which I participate. While reflecting on some of my morning’s work, my thoughts brought me to this question:

Being In Charge vs. Leadership:  What’s the Difference?

I feel pretty confident that as you read this, you are saying to yourself, “Well, that’s easy.  Someone who leads… leads! While someone who is in charge… well they just… manage stuff.”  This is, in fact, the stuff of graduate work… at least my graduate work…

Which really begets my question:  Why are so many school leaders just people in charge?

I mean, I can truly tell you there is one person… okay… maybe three… people who could sit with me in a pre-conference and really and truly ‘coach-me-up’.  They understand my thinking because… well, I learned how to think about thinking from them.  Like the last picture, they really can stand in the thick of it with me.

I think the purpose of picking administrators and supervisors is to choose people who can truly teach through inspiration.

Inspiration seems to be in such short supply… or is that those who fill vacancies don’t know what it looks like?

Like many of you, I subscribe to many many organizational publications.  WowEd!, the NAESP newsletter, landed on my desk.  The cover story spoke about Dave Burgess’ book, “Teach Like a Pirate!”  The article explained that pirates were innovators of their time and that like pirates, we should be looking for innovating leaders to fill the upcoming administrative and supervisory vacancies.

I had to ask myself:  What have the people that I know (who have become supervisors and administrators) done that was innovative?  

I realize that my world is small.  I have, however, taught for almost 12 years, followed by work in the financial markets,  where I wrestled with more than one lawyer over their proposed divorce settlement for my client because of its impact on the children… (I sometimes think I should have gone to law school instead of administration… but that’s a story for another day), and am now in my second leg of my teaching career for 10 years.

I confess that I wasn’t all that interested in administration or leading during the first leg of my career.  I was very happy in the classroom.  I loved my job. I loved the people I worked with. And I loved the kids I worked with.  They didn’t live on the prettiest side of town and they had reputations that most of them didn’t deserve.  They wanted what most of us want: to be important.  To be seen.  As Viola Davis as Abileen in “The Help” says to Babygirl, the child she cares for and loves, ” You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

I left teaching when my life took a turn.  It was when I left the classroom that I fully realized that empowering others was the reason I was so good at teaching.  I believed that lifting others up was the most noble of professions; in the classroom, I just had to be me.  It was who I was.  Empowering my students just came naturally to me.

When I went into the financial services business, I went with the same heart.  To bring knowledge and support that would empower these people who were now my clients.  It was a lot harder than empowering my students.  It took me years to channel the innovative strategies that  would once again be focused on supporting what’s best for kids.  In the end, the Trade Towers would bring be back to teaching.

I was writing about being innovative…

The people who were promoted in corporate at least had done something outstanding.  Now… whether it was because they lied, cheated, or did it honestly wasn’t something that came up in the discussion.  But at least they stood out from the crowd because of their perceived achievement.

Do the people who hire supervisors and administrators actually listen to the some of the people they promote?  Have you actually listened to the tenor of their voice? Have they actually listened  to the energies they project?

I will confess that I’ve known two people in the last 10 years with enough enthusiasm to light up a building.  I will also confess that I am attracted to high energy people.  I am drawn to them like a moth to flames.  Just as with my #Voxer group–my IBA buddies– the energy generated about a good joke, a good salad, (just kidding, Steven) or a hot and heavy academic debate about best practices lights up my energies with ideas I can’t write fast enough to catch all of them. (Thank goodness they’re recorded and I can go back to them all…)

But inspiration?  I think it’s a tricky thing to uncover.

It’s very hard to see on a resume unless you’re really  looking.  Knowledge?  Well, if a candidate graduated with honors, it’s a pretty sure bet that mastering new knowledge will be a walk in the park.  But… inspiration?  I think it’s the trait progressive leaders  should look closer to find.

Thoughts anyone?




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