I think being credible, that is, being taken seriously, is the first step toward being an effective leader. People, especially those you wish to or purport to lead have to believe in your knowledge, skills, and abilities as a leader. That should go without saying, but it’s worth addressing here because not every leader understands this. Some do things that create toxic environments that drive people away and also kill their credibility with their immediate reports….AND the people with whom the reports have relationships. That’s right. The street committee is talking about you when you do things that create poor work environments.And if you’re bad at what you do, they talk about you twice as often. So, for all the new school-leaders (not to be confused with Leaders of the New School) and the veteran leaders, here are 5 ways to quickly erode your credibility with your faculty and staff. If you’re doing these things…stop. Immediately. If you can’t, then you should find another line of work.
- Tell lies. Often: This one is always baffling to me, because EVERYONE knows that people share what you, the leader, have told them. If you are a liar, your staff will find out pretty quickly. They may not call you on your lies. They may do what you ask, or tell them, to do, but they’ll never believe in you or buy into your vision. This is an easy one. Stop telling lies at work and about the work.
- Treat your staff members poorly: Lying is pretty bad, but if you yell at your faculty with some regularity, purposely put them in situations where they will be unsuccessful, or otherwise take advantage of people who have less power than you do…word will get out about you…and once again, no one will buy into your vision.
- Take more than your fair share of the credit and less than your fair share of the blame: If you only show up when there is something to celebrate and are always willing to tell external stakeholders including your supervisors, the news media, parents, etc. about whose fault it is when things are going wrong, your faculty members will notice. Quickly. They’ll stop sharing information with you lest you publicly take credit for their good ideas. A strong staff shouldn’t be a threat to anyone in a position of power, unless they don’t actually deserve to be there. Build up your staff, and they’ll follow you through the gates of hell. And if not hell, at least through a sketchy neighborhood. Make a habit of taking all the credit and assigning all the blame, and they wouldn’t follow you to a family reunion if you had GPS, a map, and an invitation.
- Make emotional decisions: I think I can speak for many people when I say I want to follow someone who is passionate about his or her work. Passion is inspirational, however, don’t mistake passion for being emotional. The modern school is a challenging and stressful place. Staff members want to follow someone who they know will remain calm and levelheaded in times of crises (both minor and major). If you have a habit of becoming overly emotional or unhinged in minor stressful situations…as well as a habit of taking things personally…and behaving like you’re taking things personally, you’ll quickly lose the trust of the faculty. They’ll be afraid to be candid with you for fear of you taking their disagreement as some sort of challenge to a duel.
- Be indecisive: No one wants to be lead by a person who can’t make a decision…and stick to it. Being indecisive makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing. Take advice, use data, plan, but MAKE A DECISION…and STICK TO IT. You’ll never have perfect information, and sometimes plans will need to be adjusted on the fly, but that isn’t the same as deciding that for two weeks we’re going to do X and then in 7 days switching things up complexly to do Q. Be decisive.
1-4 on my list are, I think, character flaws. If you have a leader (or subordinate) who does these things with some frequency…you might not want to allow these people to have access to school, department, or district funds. Number 5 on the list can happen to folks with the best of intentions, but still betrays someone who might be ineffective if they can’t get their act together.
As always, thanks for reading. Pardon the typos and errors and such. Until next time…