Dr Kate Thornton emphasises the key role that introspective reflection and self awareness have in achieving authentic leadership.
The first quality or sort of capability that I’d like to talk about is actually authenticity because I think it’s really important to realise that leaders are all different and everyone can be a leader. And there’s not just one way to practise or demonstrate leadership so you have to be yourself, you have to know your own values, you have to know what’s important to you, and so you have to be an authentic leader in order to be effective and that takes a lot of reflection and it takes self-awareness. So we can link that to emotional intelligence, particularly the intrapersonal intelligence.
It’s about knowing what you are good at, but also knowing what you aren’t good at, and what you need to work with other people to achieve. And so I think that’s really important and I think that’s something that leaders in the Early Childhood sector have missed out on because there hasn’t been much professional learning available and it takes time and it takes reflection to actually really learn about yourself as a leader. You’ve got to read, you’ve got to think about what leadership means to you, so it’s actually taking that time to reflect, to think about your values, to think about your moral purpose, why you’re leading, what you want to achieve, and so on. So it’s being an authentic leader, being true to yourself. And when you are an authentic leader, your decisions are actually based on your values. So you don’t do things because it’s the easiest thing to do, you do things because it’s the right thing to do.
So I think that’s the first and most important aspect. And I think that’s difficult if you haven’t been engaged in any sort of leadership professional learning because people can do it on their own, they can reflect and they can read, but it’s much easier to do it with support and with others so I think there’s a big gap there in terms of preparation for leadership. The second part is really about how you work with others and your capabilities in that sphere and I’ve decided to call that a mentoring capability. So it’s the other part of emotional intelligence, it’s about how to work with others. So it’s about being an effective communicator, being a mentor and coach for those you work with. And some of the literature suggests, and I tend to agree, that the most important thing a leader does, a positional leader does, is grow other leaders. So you help provide the culture and the environment that will allow others to lead and you do that by acting in that coaching and mentoring mode as a leader. You don’t have to know all the answers but you do actually have to know all the good questions to ask and I know we’ve got another question later on mentoring coaching so I think we can probably expand on that a bit then.
The third thing, and it sort of relates to a little bit what I talked about what I see as the difference between leadership and management, is having a vision. But it’s not actually about your individual vision, it’s actually about the shared vision. So it’s about working with others to come up with a vision for the organisation that’s going to help you move forward. One of the leader’s key roles is actually to keep hold of that vision, because sometimes the other people in that team that you are working with are working on aspects of it and it’s the leader’s role to remind people and to hold that vision up. One way I like to conceptualise this is thinking of it a bit like a jigsaw. Whereas you’ve got a team of teachers, parents, whānau working together to achieve the vision, what you can do as the positional leader, you’re the one who has got the box the jigsaw comes in with the picture on it, so you know what they’re aiming for and you are sort of reminding them and helping them put the bits together to achieve what you want to achieve. So those were my three. I could have probably picked some more but those were the top three I chose anyway.
This video is part of the Leadership for learning downloadable workshop.