Leaders are “anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.”

Brene Brown

This definition got me thinking about the leaders that have inspired me and how I would define them: 

Who makes me lean in and listen a little closer?  Who makes me want to follow them?  I certainly admire people who have been at it for awhile, but I realized it’s not just the length of their time in leadership, but the quality in which they lead. 

As a young teacher I quickly noticed there are two camps of long-term educators: 

1-those who were embittered by the system and gotten cynical toward their profession, and

2-those who focused on the students and remembered what they personally loved about teaching. 

It is not just the length of time served in leadership that is admirable, is it? 

Think back on the teachers who led you.  Most of us have had at least one from each of these camps, haven’t we?  It is the quality in which they served that endeared me to my favorites.  (Thank you, Mrs. Price, I still remember your kind words, high standards, and encouraging presence as a 5th grader.)  It was those committed to learning and growing from experiences as they remembered the passion that guided them.

So, what does make long-term leaders stay hopeful, optimistic, yet realistic and grounded?

Here’s SIX traits I noticed they all had in common that will help any leader.

1. Stay Curious

Ask questions that help you get more clarity before you jump to assumptions.  Especially when you’re under attack.  Care enough to ask what is going on and understand the perspectives of all involved. 

2. Stay Humble

Have the humility to keep being a student even when you’re leading.  Be a student of what each person needs and how they are hoping to be led.  I’m humming Tim McGraw’s song, Humble and Kind even as I write this.  Humility earns loyalty and respect as it sets the tone for healthy team culture. See the music video here –>  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awzNHuGqoMc  

3. Stay Strong

Hold the authority for the vision, values and mission of your team.  And draw your lines in the sand.  Know your non-negotiables that tear down teams and create unhealthy cultures.  Unapologetically take your stand in what really matters—so that people can trust where they’re going and feel secure getting there. 

4. Stay Sensitive

Commit to meeting people where they are, not where you want them to be.  This means taking time with people.  Find out what they believe, what they value, what their experiences are, and how they view life.  And as you come alongside them, lead from where they are. 

5. Stay Integrated

There are many tensions we have to hold in leadership – emotions & logic— asserting & accommodating – initiating & waiting – cautiousness & risk-taking . . . BE BOTH.  Staying integrated as a leader means allowing yourself to confidently hold both extremes and navigate as the situation calls for it.  This is wholistic and keeps us balanced as leaders.

6. Stay the Course

Know your values and live out of them – day after day after day.  Be consistent.  Trust that every little step forward is working and moving the team in the right direction.  And make peace with the length of time it takes for people and groups to get there.  If you’re anything like me, change never happens fast enough. Learning the realistic pace is always a mindful practice for leaders committed to the process.

Lead on my friends!  Whether you’re a parent, teacher or CEO, lead well. 

Our world is counting on you.

Cheering you on from my little corner of the world,