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What we can learn about leadership from superb teachers

3 min read


I guess I’m old school. No pun intended. Autumn will always mean “back to school” time to me. I got to thinking about what we could learn about leadership from some of the best teachers out there.

Plant seeds of goals, plans and confidence

Let’s start with Stefanie Adams of Florida. This year, along with Eric J. Johnson, she was awarded first place at the high-school level at the 34th annual Governor’s Awards.

“I have a favorite old phrase that I often apply to my students,” Adams said. “Average people have wishes and dreams. Confident people have goals and plans.”

Leaders, have you checked in with your employees lately? Do you know their goals and plans, particularly when it comes to their own development or aspirations? You may have some work to do. If you take Stefanie’s remark to heart, you don’t want just average people working with you. How can you help them develop their own goals and plans and raise their confidence?

Challenge yourself to lead bold change

“The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you first find yourself.” ~ Mark Caine

Josh Stumpenhorst, a sixth-grade English and history teacher in Naperville, Ill., has made significant strides toward changing traditional thinking about learning. Despite obstacles because of district, state, or federal mandate, he banned homework, among other things.

“Most teachers are not willing to change because they are under so much pressure to uphold tradition and frankly they fear for their jobs,” he says.

Leaders, how are you holding back because “that’s the way it’s always been done,” or you feel like you will be putting yourself in the negative spotlight? What are you modeling to your employees?

To make everyone successful, work with her or his uniqueness

Melissa Olsen, social studies teacher at St. Mark’s High School in Wilmington, Del., says one key she has found for effective leadership in the classroom is to help her students focus on what they need to do individually to be successful, in alignment in doing what’s assigned. She says it’s so important to recognize the uniqueness of the student, in order for them to get the most out of the learning experience.

Leaders, how much do you know about how your employees learn and take in information? Does success for them need to look the same way success looks for anyone else? Worth pondering.

After my research and interviews for this piece, one thing I came away with is that we can all learn from each other. Pun intended. And I learned, “Teachers rule!”

Mary C. Schaefer is a speaker, coach, trainer and consultant specializing in creating manager-employee communication breakthroughs and functional and positive work cultures. Connect with Schaefer via the Re-Imagine Work blog or on Twitter @MarySchaefer.