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What is a leader?

I am currently enrolled in a course through the ATN-LEAP Learning Employment Aptitudes Program called Leadership and Communication. This week we were asked to reflect on a series of questions about what it means to be a leader. I have posted these here in the hopes of getting a conversation going. I would love to hear what you have to say on these issues.

• What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is a quality I try to cultivate in myself and others. As an educator, I can think of no one else who is better positioned than the classroom teacher to be a leader. I associate leadership with professional autonomy. I also think of leadership as a complimentary attribute of ethical and moral behavior. Leadership, to me, is about doing the right thing because it will benefit the greater good.  

• What is a leader?
A leader is someone who can identify a problem and has the courage to act, in some capacity, on that problem.  A leader may not necessarily be the person to solve said problem but rather is someone who is able to inspire others to pursue solutions to particular problems or thorny situations. A leader is not interested in being in the limelight. A leader knows there are things that need to get done and finds a way for that to happen.

• Give some examples of leaders you admire (work, community, industry or national) and why you think or believe they are leaders?
I think the new director at my international school is a leader. She just took on this position about a month ago and I don’t know her very well but she inspires confidence and optimism; this appears to be infectious as other administrators are changing the way they approach teachers. She has a vision for where she wants the school to go and she is communicating that to the various constituencies that make up our school community. She deals with everyone on an equal footing at the same time that she realizes there are many changes to be made and is taking action as issues arise. 

• From your own social and cultural context, what is the one most important attribute that leaders require to be successful? Why?
I think the most important attribute that leaders require to be successful is to have a vision and to be able to communicate it. Others can manage the day-to-day but the vision and the ability to share that vision with others in a way that is convincing, is critical. Once a vision is in place then it’s a matter of figuring out what needs to be done and who is going to do it. This inspires confidence and people who are willing to work to make that vision come to fruition.

• What qualities of leadership are most highly appreciated by your culture/racial grouping/family grouping/gender/organization/…?

I think the qualities of leadership that are most highly appreciated by my family grouping are: ability to make decisions, ability to inspire others to go along, ability to stand up to injustice, ability to recognize leadership capacity in others, ability to hang in there for the long haul, ability not to get derailed into petty arguments, ability to maintain the focus on the big picture and the big goals, ability to communicate a vision for change and sustainability, ability to admit mistakes or to change a course of action if it’s not working.
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