Today’s leaders have to be more cooperative and transparent than ever before. How many of us have lived through scandals involving leaders at all levels? How many of us have lost faith in some form of leadership–local workplace leadership and local, state, and national political leadership? I’m sure we could all make a list of leaders who have fallen short. Why do some leaders cause their people to lose faith? Why do some leaders fail?
Looking at successful leaders, it’s easy to see why they have remained trustworthy and admirable. Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.” Leaders go high without letting injustices off the hook. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” went high, but he still shared his disappointment with fellow clergy and white moderates for their indifference. Interestingly enough, the second sentence of his letter reads, “Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas.” While this might seem like he turned a deaf ear toward critics of his vision, instead he explains that he would not have time to get the “constructive” work done if he responded to those opposed to him and his methods. He listened, but he maintained his vision and continued his work toward justice.
In education today, we have to continue to work toward what is best for our students even in the face of criticism, sometimes disguised in the form of budget cuts or other subtle acts of devaluing education. Educational leaders continue on. Classroom instructors continue on. When the noise gets too loud, we focus even more intently on our classroom and students because this is the daily work that really matters–helping students progress toward their dreams and goals.
Finally, leaders emphasize input and cooperation from a chorus of voices. It’s tough to know which words any of us say that may open up a great idea or shut down dialogue–though it’s a bit easier to figure that last one out. Being authentic and kind allows all of us to take more risks. In taking risks, we are able to achieve beyond what was thought possible.