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What It Takes to Be a Leader
May 5, 2022
Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.
-John Dewey (1859 - 1952), American psychologist

In an article on the Advantage Performance website, Katrin Schwabe writes about how tough it is for most people to lead others. She explains: "For some of us, leading comes naturally. For most, however, it’s hard – even under the best of conditions. And it takes us by surprise when it really shouldn’t. This is because leading people is not easy. It is complex. It can be frustrating. It is time-consuming. It’s about emotions and expectations.

Leading people is about mobilizing and optimizing the talent and skills of yourself and others in order to achieve results. And it is about the willingness to hold up the mirror and be very self-aware about your strengths and limitations – and maintaining the capacity to grow and develop."

She counsels anyone considering stepping into a leadership position (or even those who are already leaders) to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Will I enjoy making other people successful?
  • Will I enjoy making myself available to help others vs doing my own work?
  • Would I be a great fit for providing direction and aligning my team to the organization?
  • What’s my experience with providing purpose? With inspiring and motivating others?
  • What have I seen work for growing others, and how can I support them in shaping their careers?
  • How easy or difficult is it for me to gain the trust of others?
  • Do I have a practice for staying emotionally balanced, especially under stressful circumstances and during change?

And in the book, Leading Early Childhood OrganizationsMargie Carter outlines some of the behaviors she believes are most important for effective leaders to practice. Here’s the first one she mentions: "Offer genuine respect and trust." She explains: "Teachers say they usually feel respected when someone really listens to them, trying to understand and be responsive…Some talk about 'being trusted to succeed, even if they falter.'"

The Art of Leadership
Early Childhood Organizations

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Comments (3)

Displaying All 3 Comments
Kirsten Haugen · May 11, 2022
Exchange Press
Eugene, OR, United States

Helen, isn't it an amazing and empowering feeling to be seen and heard and respected? We rise together in such organizations, supported by that kind of leadership. I wish it for more people.

Nancy Rosenow · May 05, 2022
United States

Helen, I so agree. I always found that one of my greatest joys of leadership was supporting and celebrating others’ growth!

Helen Meissner · May 05, 2022
Stepping Stones ELC
Minneapolis, MN, United States

This is very true. I spent 20 years in a company where Leadership did not want to support or put time into helping develop others true potential. They were often enraged at having to set their job aside to help a person under their leadership. The company I work for know has a very healthy culture of leadership and encouragement. They are good at listening, building on strengths and they see many powerful results from their efforts to promote healthy thought patterns and mutual respect.

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