There has been a lot of discussion in my school lately about leadership and change. It has me thinking about my own role and the aspirations of a few of the young staff in my school.
I have never thought of leaders as those that necessarily rank the highest or hold positions of power. I have been told throughout my life that I have natural leadership skills, whether it be as a student, as a member of my sporting teams or in my employment. I have tucked this away as part of a catalogue of labels I have collected but had really never given it too much thought until recently.
It may well be that some people have certain characteristics that lend them to be identified as “leaders”. This could be a whole range of things from hard working and confident, to inspiring and engaging. Lately though, I have been considering these ideas and having attended a conference last month where PLN and PLCs were a focus, I have begun to adapt my views.
One of the ideas raised during the conference (and I apologise because I can’t remember who instigated it) was, whether you have deliberately developed a PLN/PLC or not, you are actually part of one and this could play out to be positive or negative. Just working alongside people, which you can’t really escape in education, means you are part of a PLN. The behaviours and practice you share are developed as part of this network whether it is deliberate or not.
I am furthering this thought to the concept of leadership. I think leadership is how we influence people and that can be either negative or positive. I was recently part of a conversation where a fellow teacher was speaking negatively about a colleague. I could have sat in silence, affirmed with a nod or added agreement all of which would have perpetuated the negativity and even encouraged further disparagement. Instead, I chose to provide a positive comment. It was amazing how this caused a dramatic change in the conversation. All of a sudden others chimed in with affirming comments and instead of it being a grumble and moan, it turned into a focus on the positives.
Had I been quiet, it would have influenced the conversation to maintain it’s negative course. I managed to influence the conversation in a different direction by contributing a simple comment. Imagine if we all made a point of influencing something this seemingly inconsequential, how a culture could start to change. We are all leaders and if we want our influence to be a positive one, we need to start with the little things. Stepping up, doing what you can with what you have and taking opportunities to influence people when they arise. Everyone has that responsibility, regardless of how high up the chain of command you are!