Learning to lead…first steps

What does it mean “to lead”? Or to be “a leader”? Or to show “leadership”? These are words and phrases that we  use often in students’ reports and that we include in CVs and cover letters. But what do they actually mean? To me, leadership has always been about initiative, collaboration, communication and action. But others may see things differently. Perhaps we think about people who have been famous leaders and use them as a symbol of our definition of leadership. But what makes them leaders? Is it who they are, what they do, how they go about it or why they do it (or a combination of all of these)?

Throughout the past four weeks, I have engaged with an online course titled ‘Leadership: Identity, Influence and Power.’ Presented by Randal Tame from the Macquarie Graduate School of Management, this is an introduction to leadership skills and strategies available free of cost through Open 2 Study (an initiative of Open Universities Australia).

There are four modules to the course, with a week allocated to the completion of each module and its assessment.

1. The Romance of Leadership

2. Leadership Theories

3. Leaders and Followers

4. The Practice of Leadership

For me there have been two main take-aways for this particular Professional Development which have helped start to refine my definition of leadership. Firstly, the four rules of leadership and secondly, the three skills of leadership.

The Four Rules of Leadership:

1. Be one of us – someone who is seen as an effective leader is seen to be “like” the group they are leading. Leadership theory states that the most influential person is an in-group prototype who is adaptable to changes in the group identity.

2. Do it for us – a leader must be the champion of the group’s interests. They do not treat themselves differently from any other member of the group and are perceived to be fair, respectful and creating a vision with the group

3. Craft a sense of us – a leader helps to form a sense of the group’s identity and to help members understand who “us” is. They are representative of the group. There are three aspects to this – the leader’s use of language, how they structure activities and actions, and how they harness the energies of the group.

4. Make us matter – a leader builds credibility within the group by making the group identity important and acting in a way that benefits the group.

The Three Skills of Leadership:

1. Reflecting – discovering what really matters to the diverse sub-groups within the group

2. Representing – Communication, collaborating and motivating. Working with each sub-group to attend to their visions and values and bring them together in a cohesive approach.

3. Realising – helping the groups to accumulate things that are of value to them, and working with them to create a social world within the organisation in which they want to live according to the collective values. This involves goal-setting and using relevant policies and practices to achieve the defined goals. It is important that these goals are S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Bound) and that the strategies are R.I.T.E (Relevant, Implementable, Timely, Engaging).

As a young teacher who has had some leadership opportunities and whose role increasingly requires working with and leading staff in EAL strategies, I am interested in further developing my skills and practice and this course has provided a great theoretical starting point. At the beginning of the first module, Tame recognises that the course can only scratch the surface of leadership theories and practice, but it is certainly a useful foundation for further study.

 

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