What’s your leadership style? Whether you work as an administrator or a team member–not that those are mutually exclusive–one style that many of us are familiar with is serving as a guide on the side, a consultative leadership role that involves a bit of friendly coaching. This coaching involves sharing ideas and information in a non-threatening way, enabling one person to share their expertise with someone even though the mentor has no specific authority.

In my role at an education service center, the apt description of “counsellor to kings” fit for many of us. We were trustworthy, dependable because we were perceived to not be enmeshed in the tangled weaves of school district or school politics. Sometimes, our role involved being cast as disinterested parties seeking to bring about change on behalf of an organization whose second-in-commands had gone astray.
“We are the best friend money can buy,” shared one colleague to me as we walked into a school district caught me off-guard. A youngster (29) at the time, I simply hadn’t thought of it that way. Her perspective on the consultative role may have been a bit jaded, but her observation rang true. The power of blogging and other communication tools that allow us to share even when we’re not specifically paid to do so.

As I reflect on what I’ve written so far, I realize it has less to do with leadership style–how a leader leads–and more in how a leader perceives others who offer advice on how to proceed…more like an information/wisdom consultant.

If I define leadership styles as this web site by the same name does, I find myself gravitating towards a particular approach. The diagram below–also from the same site as above– provides an interesting continuum:
Leadership StylePower Difference Index - s
As I reflect on my own leadership practices, I have moved steadily from an autocratic style to a more delegative style. The reason for starting out autocratic is that I began my career–hoping not to sound boastful here–as a high performing individual. I was seldom called upon to work collaboratively with others, but rather, to solve problems as an individual. Even in group settings with other high performing individuals, teaming to solve problems was a matter of finding the best idea and implementing it.
This came to mind as I listened to Crucial Conversations audio this morning. In school, we are conditioned to strive for the approval of one person–the teacher. When we raise our hands, we hope that no one will get to share the right answer before we do…and, even better than that is that everyone else shares THEIR answer but it is wrong. The feeling of triumph is all the sweeter when, after everyone who has been called on is wrong, we share our answer and it is THE ONE.
What an insightful perspective offered up in Crucial Conversations. Combine that expectation with always having the right answer and being responsible for a team, and you have a tension-filled experience when you are in a leadership position. At least, I did. Over time, though, I realized that more participative/delegative styles yielded better results…and I didn’t have to be right all the time! What a blessing!
As a consultant for a business, I’ve had to relearn what my role should be as a team member rather than a leader facilitating decision-making. To be honest, I’ve found the role of team member in an autocratic style environment to be quite…relaxing, even as I miss the opportunity for more collaborative conversations that result in team solution planning and implementation.
For many teachers, this role of “Tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it!” is second-nature. However, that’s not the role teachers need to play anymore, is it? How can we better scaffold teachers–and their administrators–growth across the continuum?

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure