Note: This is a post written for the members of Cohort 21 and will also be posted on their blog. I encourage CIS members to checkout this unique professional learning opportunity at cohort21.com.
I also dedicate this post to all budding and active teacher leaders around the world, some of whom I had the privilege to already work with and others that I look forward to collaborating with in the near future!
Read any education newsletter, blog or article and it is clear that how we learn and teach has come so far from what we have often experienced ourselves as students. Teachers all over the world have embraced new pedagogies, technology and how they view students as learners. In these times of change, nothing excites me more than to see the shifts in how the view of school leaders is moving beyond the typical notion of the leader at the top. More recognition and value is being placed on the formal and informal teacher leaders in school communities.
I absolutely believe whether you are in a school or district that recognizes this or not (but hopefully this is not the case), that there are teacher leaders all around you. In fact, if you are reading this, I believe you are one of our much needed school leaders. Perhaps you have already explored and harnessed your leadership talents in your school setting. Maybe you know you are capable, but are hesitant to take that next step. Perhaps you’re not quite sure what to make of all this 21st century learning stuff. Wherever you are in this range, I hope by the end of this that at the very least, you are able to embrace the idea that the revolution in learning needs your perspective and expertise.
So what are the qualities exhibited by 21st century leaders? This conversation can span many blog posts long, so I have narrowed it down to three qualities/skills. I will preface my thoughts by saying that you may notice one obvious quality missing from my list, which is the passion for and belief in kids. This is omitted simply because I see this as a prerequisite for every educator. From my own experiences both as a teacher, administrator and evolving connected educator, I share below what I have often observed in those teachers making change in our schools.
21st century leaders are relationship-based
21st century leaders are driven by the ability to create and sustain relationships both with and for others. They know the importance of relationships and value strong connections with others. They also often leverage technology to create new relationships. These leaders are able to make meaning for others they work with and are able to create connections between the various other individuals in their school and virtual communities.
21st century leaders are able to “create the conditions for learning” (shared by @rita_russo, OISE)
21st century leaders create learning environments for both themselves and others. They embrace a lifelong mindset of a learner. They understand that the rapid pace of our current society doesn’t require the ability to know everything, but rather a willingness to learn. They are able to self-assess their needs and seek opportunities to develop the areas they are not as strong in. These leaders are not only effective in embracing this mindset for themselves, but also in creating it in others. They help to foster environments where saying “I don’t know” is not considered a detriment, but a jumping off point for further learning.
21st century leaders are courageous
21st century leaders must exhibit courage because of the changing nature of schools and the complexity that change with bring. They need to work beyond the traditional parameters laid out to find creative solutions that work for their own school settings. These individuals also know that the path to change can be fraught with challenges, but do not let those things stop them. They are resilient. Setbacks are opportunities to take a breath, reset, and carry forth the intended goal. 21st century leaders are not people without fear or discomfort, but they do push beyond it to do what’s best for students.
Not sure where to find these leaders? Take a look in the mirror the best example is staring right at you!
Still hesitant to lead? Remember, a leader is never perfect, but does embrace being a “work in progress”. All leaders are continuous learners, so if you are looking to stretch your thinking, take a look at some of the work and thoughts of these individuals:
- Kathy Cassidy’s, Primary Preoccupation at kathycassidy.com
- George Couros’, The Principal of Change at georgecouros.ca
- Will Richardson’s blog at willrichardson.com
So what are you waiting for? Wherever you are in your journey, we need you to take that next step to create change for our students and schools. Dip, step, or jump right in and embrace the leader you were meant to be.