Monday, December 3, 2012

Leadership is a dialogue, not a monologue.

A couple of weeks ago, I read a tweet from Erin Paynter (@erinpaynter) that sparked my interest and really made me think.  I have included it here.
#leadership is a dialogue, not a monologue.” Kouzes and Posner, The Leadership Challenge. 
Being the only administrator in a building of approximately 40 staff and over 500 students, I began thinking about how often my leadership style is more monologue than dialogue.  I must admit that I was unpleasantly surprised to find that I am often the only one speaking and I don't even allow for the opportunity to listen.  This realization will hopefully impact my future involvement in any leadership group that I am involved in.
As with most administrators, I am looked upon as the leader, but I feel that this is based more upon my title as principal and not because I have all of the answers, or for that matter, even some of the answers.  The students, staff, and parents with whom I work every day have great ideas to improve upon all that we do in our school each and every day.  Now I need to find more ways to be more of a listener than a talker and to provide the environment that will allow the students, staff, and parents the opportunity to be a part of a leadership dialogue.  If I don't do this, I fear that the leadership monologue I currently utilize will stagnate any progress that our school can make.
As I reflect upon the meetings I was a part of over the last couple of weeks, I noticed that I made the agendas and therefore I was seen as being "in charge".  I often send out the agendas in advance and have "anything else" as the last agenda item.  Not only do I make the agendas, I lead the meetings.  My goal is to have the members of the group develop the agenda and allow those who have suggested the agenda item be the leader of the discussion on that item.  I then need to sit back and listen, really listen, so that I don't take over the meeting.
Moving more to a dialogue than a monologue will take practice on my part and the part of our students, staff, and parents.  My hope is that providing the opportunity to lead during these meetings that I will facilitate leadership in everyone.  I need to listen to the students, staff, and parents more than I talk.  That can be difficult, but I plan on doing my best to listen attentively every time someone speaks to me.
As Ernest Hemingway once said, "When people talk, listen completely.  Most people never listen."  Coach Bob Knight also has a quote that I must aspire to- "Everybody hears, but few listen."  I guess what these two quotes are saying to me is that I need to be a better listener.  Without listening, my leadership will remain a monologue instead of a dialogue.