On Leadership…

Influential or transformational leadership is a powerful mechanism.  As a leader, in any capacity,–be it teacher-leader, community leader, local school leader or school system leader–I believe the power of influence is the most forceful mechanism to progressivism.  Influence and Transformation are tools that motivate and inspire people who have entrusted their direction to a certain individual capable of leading them.  They encourage and empower others.  Followers gladly and confidentially follow, not because of position, or authority, but because the leader is molded and guided by his own internal set of values. An effective school leader is an influencer who is a student-centered visionary, a knowledgeable practitioner,  a problem solver, an agent of positive culture and change, and devoted to leader development—all skills of which I possess.

As Leaders, for the most part, we do these things naturally. We provide information and support, and we share our experiences for the greater good of our followers.   As school leaders, we are not primarily doing things for people–we are helping them do things for themselves and for their families. I am not a Leader because I want people to rely on me–I’d feel awkward and uncomfortable and unqualified if that were the case. I’m a Leader because I want to empower others, enlightening them, provoking higher thought processes, helping them step outside of their comfort zones and still achieving a given set of goals.  I am a leader because I feel that before I can effectively teach a student, I have to effectively build those positive relationships which, in my opinion, are an often overlooked task.  Since I mainly focus on building relationships with students for them to feel motivated and successful, I feel applying the same philosophy to teachers, colleagues and those within the public at large is one of the most effective means of school and community progression.

I am a leader because my co-workers and colleagues I’ve met are role-models to me.  I’ve watched them, I’ve mimicked them in and around the school and patterned those qualities and skills I liked or wished I had.  I think this exemplifies another hallmark of leadership—followership.  We listen to each other with respect and acceptance.  We share insights, perspectives and experiences.  Overall, I am not afraid to listen, to admire, or to take a step back and be reflective on my own successes and failures, opening myself up to learn from others.  I still find new ideas to ponder and new insights at just about every interaction.  The networking within my current school and others I’ve visited is irreplaceable because what I learn from others continues to help me on a day to day basis as an educator and even as a person.  I am a leader because I am a follower of leaders.  I am challenged by them, inspired by them, challenged, affirmed, educated by them and constantly strengthened by them.

I study leaders. I’ve read extensively on the life and legacies of leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, Mumia Abu Jamal, Dick Gregory, Fred Hampton, Huey P. Newton, Maya Angelou, Barack Obama, Colin Powell. The list continues.  I study these characters, analyzing their leadership styles, both strenghts and weaknesses, and use them for my own edification and matriculation into the school of thought which is Black ideology and empowerment.  My constant quest to learn more about history, culture and leadership from phenomenal Black leaders and circumstances is like religion to me.  Since I feel I’ve never had a religous experience in the traditional sense, I would argue that my initial enlightenment and subsequent devouring of material would count as such. I say this because religion is defined as a set of beliefs and practices; how we individually or collectively make a sense of the world, of our sense of existence; a system of ideology and practices that ground us to a greater sense of purpose. It makes our lives meaningful.  So with that said, my existence, my sense of purpose and committment, my “religion” is the life-long study of Blackness: our heroes, our heroines, our culture, pride, our history.  It is the glue that keeps me grounded to my community and it is the driving force behind my existence as an educator and mentor. It gives me a sense of obligation to my community–Black America. That’s my religion, and that’s why I’m a leader.

I am a Leader because I value the skills I’ve learned thus far in my tenure as a professional educator, not necessarily as means for any future employment (although I am certain they’d be valuable) but because of how they enrich me and my life now, and how I can enrich that of others. Over the years, under the tutelage of so many great teachers and administrators at Duluth Middle School, I’ve learned to be more organized, to be a better manager, to listen to others more carefully, to respond more helpfully, to plan ahead, to be more conscious of how looks, words, and actions affect others, to be more aware of the long-range results of things I might do or say, to work cooperatively with others, to choose words carefully, to appreciate the differences in people, to respect the choices others make, to explain my thoughts and convictions to others and (possibly most valuable of all) to continually evaluate what I’m doing in my own life and to think about whether it’s helpful to me, my students, my colleagues,  to my family, to others, or not–and to make changes, gradually.

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