Simon Sinek draws attention to the assumption that leadership and authority are often confused as one and the same thing, when indeed, they are anything but. Steeped in the political climate where the man who holds our country’s highest office faces serious questions about his leadership abilities, I reflect on my own surroundings and the leaders with whom I work on a daily basis. How are they leading in this time of transition in Vermont schools? Are they, as Sinek suggests, “looking after those around [them]?”
Clearly, it’s true that people will follow others when they feel heard, and while we see this played out on the national level, I see it play out just as clearly in my school. Listening to those around her is a strength of one leader I admire. Although it takes patience sometimes to catch up with her, she is willing to hear all viewpoints and takes them into consideration when making decisions. Her style is to talk things through, listen and synthesize, and ultimately clear the way to make things happen.
The thing is, sometimes you have to be willing to fight to make things happen, and this is where this woman wins me over. On spunk, she is never short. She is willing to take on the often male-dominated power chain in order to make progress, willing to have difficult conversations honestly, and in the end, doesn’t take any crap. This woman has passion, and I know she yearns for opportunities to surface from the muck of everyday duties to feed the visionary that is too often sacrificed.
I wish I had a little more of what she has. I’ve never been accused of not being passionate, but when it comes time to have those difficult conversations, I often freeze. Hit me up in the car on the way home and I’ve got all kinds of things on the ready to answer those questions, but in the moment, my brain wants to mull it over, not defend. I know it’s an area I need to address, and placing myself in situations where it’s necessary is the only way to retraining my brain.
This woman is also a people person–something likely learned from her involvement in the family business. She knows how to read people, and more importantly, work them– to identify characteristics in others that work well for the whole, and how to best support them in the name of progress. Sometimes, it takes stepping back and letting others think they’ve devised the great idea she suggested. Sometimes, it takes talking it through for an hour or two, and sometimes it just takes the support that she can give because of her title.
While the title is important, Sinek reminds us that the “power always belongs to the
people.” A smart leader is one who has a keen understanding of this fact, and makes decisions as such. The leader I have described here is able to balance both the demands of a state in flux and the needs of a veteran and outspoken staff. I appreciate the opportunity to learn from her and to incorporate those lessons as I make my own way.