A-Z: Leadership Traits and Attributes

“Titles don’t make you a leader, impact does.” Unknown

Effective leadership is essential in moving schools forward to evolve and grow. Being a good leader isn’t something everyone can do because leadership is a journey and takes time, reflection and intentional goals. Many effective leaders share several traits and attitudes; below I offer 26 ways leaders can be effective.

A strategy I suggest is choosing one trait or attribute a week and self reflecting where you are in your leadership journey with the attribute or trait. Using this strategy will help you start to make small changes in your practice to becoming an even more effective leader. 

Authentic: Being your true authentic self at work will allow you to enjoy what you’re doing every day because it will will align with your skills, values and passions. It won’t be a job you have to go to but a job you want to do.

Balanced: Being a good leader means making sure you are modeling positive behaviors such as work/life balance. It also helps you be the best leader you can be when you are also taking care of yourself.

Communicate Effectively: Communication is an integral part of being an effective leader. You need to be able to synthesize information along with being able to frame problems as opportunities in order for staff not to feel confused or overwhelmed.

Decision Making: Effective leaders need to feel comfortable making decisions in response to rapidly-changing information. As a leader, your decisions need to be responsive and guided by your priorities, purpose, and data.

Empower: It is important you understand that great work can not be done alone and that you need a team to be able to be successful. You can empower staff by acknowledging others strengths and potential contributions.

Focused: It is key to stay focused and not lose sight of your goals. There will always be lots of distractions; you need to be able to filter and focus on moving forward, keeping in mind the goals you set.

Gratitude: Expressing gratitude not only shows you care and recognize people but it also builds trust and creates positive, feel good interactions. Check out this article to learn more, Why Gratitude Makes Leaders More Effective.

Humble: Being humble makes great leaders open-minded and willing to listen to others. It shows you trust your team/staff and respect them. Humble leaders don’t let pride get in the way; they take constructive criticism to improve their craft.

Inspirational: As a leader people are looking up to you. You need to have the ability to communicate that passion, purpose and meaning to others to help inspire them as it will define your culture.

Joy: Bring joy to work is an essential attribute for leaders for many reasons. When leaders lead with joy it is infectious and spreads like wild fire to create a culture of joy. Having a culture of joy makes staff happier which means more productivity and engagement. Do you want to learn how to bring more joy into the workplace; check out theses 12 ways.

Know Your Self: Effective leadership involves leading by example which means you need to know yourself as a leader. Your personal experiences, values and strengths make up your leadership philosophy. Here is a great exercise that takes 10 mins to allow you to create more self-awareness.

Learning: As a leader you should be constantly learning and growing your practice. No one is saying you have to know everything but be willing to learn and grow by saying things such as “I don’t know the answer but I will find out.
This also models for your staff that learning never stops.

Mindful: It is important to pay attention to the present moment as much as it is important to look forward. You need to keep in mind not everyone is in the same place as you and to have empathy for others.

Nimble: Nimble and agile leaders are those who can adapt to an ever-changing and uncertain world. As a leader you need to be able to see how your school, department etc can continue to grow and develop while making pivots.

Openly Listen: Effective leaders need to listen to others around them. Openly listening to not only their ideas but also the barriers they see. You also need to listen to them when they are having struggles in and out of the workplace in order to be supportive.

Proactive: As a leader you need to be proactive to take time to strategically think and plan. Too often as leaders we get caught up in the tactical and day to day we don’t leave enough time to strategically think. One way to making sure you have time to strategically think during your week is to block it off on your calendar like it is a meeting.

Questioning: Asking questions helps leaders understand concepts, ideas and others. When you don’t ask questions you make assumptions and that doesn’t help anyone. Asking questions to clarify, identify gaps in understanding and to learn helps leaders facilitate discussions. Questions are also a great way of challenging people to think differently or to think about the outcomes they want.

Relationships: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” by Maya Angelou. Building relationships is the most important thing you can do as a leader and you must remember to continue to foster and nurture them.

Servant leader: Being a good leader means you need to put people first. To do this you must help others with their goals and grow their skills. Check out this article to gain ideas on how to put people first: The Power of Putting People First

Transparency: When you are transparent with your staff they don’t have to tell themselves stories of what is happening because they know what is happening. The more openness and honesty you promote, the quicker you and your team will be able to work together.

Understanding: As a leader, you must understand that everyone has different needs and that there isn’t a one size fits all solution. You must tailor your coaching and supporting style to match their working style.

Visionary: Having a vision and using it as a foundation helps to move the work forward. The vision needs to speak to the staffs purpose and why it’s important for the school/department/organization to exist. You need to be able to create not only the mental but also the verbal pictures of desirable future state.

Wondering: When you wonder, it sparks curiosity and innovation. Never letting the status quo exist helps you keep you on the cutting edge.

X-Factor: Each leader have different X-Factors that make them unique. Figuring out your x-factor will help you know yourself as a leader and understand your strengths.

You Elevate Talent: The greatest leaders distribute leadership and elevate others talents by knowing their strengths. As a leader, take the time to list the strengths of your staff and then meet with them one on one to listen to their goals and ambitions. Use this information to determine ways you can elevate their talents.

Zest: To have zest as a leader means having positive energy. Positive energy motivates and inspires people and helps you network as no one wants to be around someone that is miserable or complaining, except those that are miserable.

Leadership can be hard to define but I like how John C Maxwell defines it, A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

Want to read more of my lists A-Z? Check out my previous blog post – Personalized Learning from A-Z

5 Ways Leaders Can Show Empathy

“The highest form of  is knowledge empathy.” By Bill Bullard

Empathy is an essential skill for all leaders. It is one of the most important ingredients to building strong, trusting relationships that allows leaders to connect to others. It also can be hard taking on others concerns so it is important that leaders make sure they give themselves grace and also have someone to lean on as well.

  1. Be Fully Present – Remove all distractions. Turn your cell phone over so the screen is not shutting or if you are in front of your computer put it at a 45 degree so it shows the other person you are present.
  2. Actively Listening – Let others share their stories without interrupting them or adding your opinion. Instead ask questions and let the other person drive the conversation.
  3. Show Vulnerability: Share the risks you take, the failures you have, be transparent with your communication and share your process on how you make decisions. Sharing this information shows others that you are not perfect and that helps people relate to you as a leader and builds your empathy muscle.
  4. Withhold Judgment- Understand the other person perspective, let go of the idea of a right or wrong answer. Reflecting on what others have said helps to better understand their perspective as well.
  5. Be a Servant Leader: Help others such as by highlighting their strengths. You also can do this by developing others in ways that unlock their potential, creativity and sense of purpose. 

Want to know how empathic you are? Take this quiz created by UC Berkeley, you will then get a report that gives you more suggestions based on your results.

You might also like my previous blog post on Building Empathy with Educators.

10 Ways to Get More Followers on Twitter

“Social media is not a media. The key is to listen, engage, and build relationships.” via David Alston

Twitter is a powerful social media platform for educators. It can help to grow your network and build a connection with others that are interested in the same education topics as you. To me twitter has been the best professional learning experience because I can learn from experts on different topics along with seeing different perspectives.

  1. Photo: Make sure you have a headshot instead of having no image or something random. Nobody wants to follow a faceless person.
  2. Profile: Your profile is what followers read first. It is a chance to explain who you are, what you do and what you are passionate about. This is why it is import to have a strong profile that represents you. Some things you should include in your profile are relevant keywords (shows up in searches), highlight your skills and include your interests.
  3. Banner/Headers Image: Your banner should also represent your personality and interests like your profile. When people click on you, they will be drawn naturally to your banner first, even before reading your profile so make sure you use that real-estate wisely.
  4. Tweet Frequency: Tweet content regularly including on weekends even if it is only a few tweets! You can do this without being on twitter all the time by using free services that schedule tweets such as Tweetdeck.
  5. Hashtags: Use hashtags to open up your tweets to more audiences – but also don’t put a lot in one tweet. You should also decide on which hashtags you want to follow based on your interests along with what is popular. You can notice these hashtag trends by seeing what others are using and following them to see if they are the right fit for you. Example: I like to follow #leadershipmatters as I am interested in leadership and I like follow #edutwitter as it seems to be a catch all for great idea sharing.
  6. Mentions:  Connect with followers by mentioning people in your tweets. For example say @(fill in the blank persons name) so that you are pulling them into a conversation.
  7. Chats: Attending Education chats on topics that you are interested is a great way to “meet” people that have similar interests as you. There are many education chats happening all week, here is a great place to start but please note twitter chats come and go so double check to see if the chat you are interested in is still happening by checking the hashtag.
  8. Follow: In order to get more followers you also need to follower others! Also participate in the #FridayFollow to promote people you are inspired by or interested in what they are saying.
  9. Tweet Content: Your twitter content should not always be your personal content. You want to make sure you are promoting others voices as well by retweet. Adding images to your tweets is also helpful for two reasons, one because the image will catch peoples eye and two because you can also tag others in images so they can see it and more likely will retweet your content.
  10. Call to Actions: Make your tweets actionable! Ways to make tweets actionable are by adding in questions to engage others or by introducing people that you think should follow each other – think virtual introductions.

If you want to follow me on twitter or want to see these tips and tricks in action you can take a look at my account – I am @edu_thompson.

Always make sure you follow good Twittiquette; for example – don’t buy fake followers, don’t spam people (including in DMs) and don’t be a troll.

5 Digital Tools to Promote Collaboration

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Having students collaborate using different digital tools helps build students communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Here are five ways to promote collaboration in both a physical and/or virtual classroom space.

Video Ask: It was created for business but teachers can turn anything into a learning opportunity with VideoAsk. Teachers and/or students can pose questions and you can reply back different ways such as with video, audio, or text. It works asynchronous so students can reply back with they have had enough time to process and/or when it is convenient for them.

Wakelet: This application allows teachers and students save, organize and share content from across the web. It can be used multiple ways in the classroom such as co-creating a digital newspaper or newsletter. You can provide your students with a topic and theme such as Ecosystems and students can find current events around that topic and have discussions.

StoriumEdu: StoriumEdu is very unique as it gamifies creative writing. Students get different digital “story cards” that represent different aspects of storytelling and character development. The cards serve as writing prompts, helping students figure out what to write next at each step of the game.

Gimkit: Similar style to Kahoot, Gimkit is a game show for the classroom that requires knowledge, collaboration, and strategy to win. It makes it great for remote learning because each student can play on their own devices

Dotstorming: Have students brainstorm together and vote on their favorite ideas. Last week I collaborated with a teacher to help create their virtual classroom rules/norms together with the students using Dotstorming. The students add cards of what they wanted the rules to be for their virtual classroom and then they voted on the top four rules co-creating their rules together.

I would love to hear your favorite digital tools to promote collaboration in the classroom. Share in the comments!

Online Teaching Opportunities at Outschool

“Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions.” —Unknown

Outschool, a marketplace for live online classes K-12, is trying to hire 5000 teachers over the next few weeks to support student learning during this pandemic. 

Outschool is offering free classes to families who need them due to school closures and has seen more than 10x the number of families sign up for classes the last few weeks and needs more teachers to keep the learning growing. 

Why teach with Outschool?

  • Impact: In under two weeks, you can be teaching live online classes and helping students and families right now
  • Flexibility: You set your schedule to times that work for you
  • Creativity: You teach what you love, the way you believe it should be taught. You pick the subject
  • Financial Security: You set the prices for your classes and most teachers report earnings of $40 per teaching hour or more. With unusually high demand, classes fill up quickly. 

You can learn more about teaching online for Outschools here.

Collection of Digital Learning Activities and Lessons

“I dream of a digital India where quality education reaches the most inaccessible corners driven by digital learning.”By Shri Narendra Modi

Over the last week I have been capturing lessons and activities that educators are posting to help other educators. #bettertogether

Resources for School Closings: COVID-19

“A good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.’”by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

With COVID-19 causing uncertainty in schools, I started curating resources that I have been seeing that support you and your students. With all the free digital resources, don’t forget about non-technology learning such as books, puzzles, cooking (following a recipe), playing outside, and conversations!

It is also important to recognize that this is an emotional time for everyone and we need to make sure we are thinking about the social and emotional needs for all.

Teachers:

Principals:

District Leaders:

All Educators:

Please share any resources you know of in the comments for all to see!