This article was written by the Deputy Minister Steve Marshall in 2009. The article covers important character traits that the Deputy Minister believes all leaders should possess if they are to be effective leaders. These traits are optimism, self-discipline, energy, synergy, and behaving ethically.
He starts by mentioning that leaders have to be people that are optimistic, especially in the face of cynicism. Optimism can be the light people need when they may not be overly pessimistic. It can bring people together for a purpose and be a positive force in developing a team that works together.
Self-discipline starts with controlling your thoughts. If you have control of your thoughts, then you will have control over your actions. I have a poster in my room that outlines this very concept. It goes,
“Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch you habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
Leaders have to make sure they train their minds to have thoughts that are optimistic and positive on the plus side of the scale. If not, it can become a slippery slope to the bottom. This is a learned behaviour, and can be changed at anytime of our lives, but you have to be willing to make the effort to bring that change about.
Also, if you expect the people that see you as the leader, then you must model what you expect of them. For an organization, to reach its goals, it needs people that are disciplined, but you cannot expect this from others, if you yourself are not disciplined.
Energy, which comprises of enthusiasm, resilience, optimism, and commitment, is a vital part of the Deputy Minister’s model of leadership. It’s vital, because as a leader, you will face many hardships, and negativity. The way you withstand the negativity, and keep your focus on the purpose, will be a measure of your success, and ultimately your schools success. If you are a person that has energy, you can be a catalyst to turn that negativity around.
Optimism, enthusiasm are contagious, and can help transform others to also have the energy you model. There will be many times when you will have to be resilience, but the commitment to student learning will be the what keeps you strong in thought.
In the end the role of the leader is to bring other together to work for a common purpose. These goals that the organization is trying to achieve cannot be accomplished by one person. This is why a leader needs to be the one that brings people together. How can a principal do this? I think it’s very much the same way we as teachers do it in a classroom. We use people’s strengths and interests and find a place that they will thrive in.
When you are tested, your integrity will be tested and those that are ethical and stand by their values, even if the goals are not met, will show their true selves. A leader will take responsibility for all failures, but will then learn from those mistakes to help regain the focus and continue the path of improvement.