A leader is an artist--a curator of experiences and facilitator of collective action. Strong leadership is expressed through authenticity, wisdom, and compassion. Early on in the class semester, I was overwhelmed by the idea of “growing into a leader.” I overwhelmed myself with hyper analyzing the diversity of leadership styles, comparing myself under a deficit perspective. As I began to get more comfortable with the curriculum and professor, I realized the assets I already possess. My leadership activates when I am most myself, an artist, writing poems, enamored by the muse and tensions of hoping in humanity. The decisions of management, culture building, and vision casting for leaders are most impactful when derived by a true passion to serve and engage with a greater calling than the job itself and for the greater good. From these reflections I have uncovered two primary purposes of a strong and effective leader: to inspire and to serve.
Leaders are not passive, but actively inspiring and serving. A leader can inspire through varying expressions, depending on the personality, preferences, and experience of the leader. Northouse (2010) in “Theory and Practice” surveyed a number of research on leadership and created four factors that describe a “transformational” leader: idealized influence, charisma, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. When a leader becomes “transformational” they take responsibility in casting a collective vision and commit to guiding his or her followers into seeing that vision through. The leader facilities this experience so that the followers feel the calling and intrinsically take ownership of the vision and their own purpose. For the followers to gain a sense of community and collective actions, leaders take upon a servant role and in humility foster an empowering working environment. They listen and respond to their followers; they show them they care about their well-being and position of influence in the organization.
I’m learning a lot about leadership. I used to think it was a top-down expression of authority, but after taking my first courses in School Leadership at USC I see a new perspective. Leadership is personal and authentic; it is a vehicle of facilitating change. You don’t give orders, but you offer suggestions and guide conversations with people into collective action. I have so much more to learn, but upon ending my first semester of USC, I’m grateful for this space of nurture and growth.
Edmonds, Ronald R. (1979) “Effective Schools for the Urban Poor.” Educational Leadership 37 (October 1979), 15-24.
Northouse, P.G. (2010). Leadership: Theory and Practice. Sage: Los Angeles. Chapters 9 & 10.