What is a Learning Leader Anyway?

What is a Learning Leader Anyway?

There’s no shortage of information out there on leadership – in fact a quick Google search brings up a staggering 2 billion-plus results.

But in my work with educational leaders, it’s very common to meet leaders who have either lost their way, or are facing challenges with their leadership identity or style.

If you’re a learning leader yourself, you’ll know that the perception of leadership is often very different to the reality you face every day.

And to be truly effective, you’ll need to worry about more than developing your own leadership skills – you’ll also need to know how to help the rest of your team develop theirs.

This was the part of the puzzle my co-authors Heather De Blasio and Jane Danvers and I wanted to address in our book Five Ways of Being – What Learning Leaders Think, Do and Say Every Day

How could we help learning leaders support and guide their colleagues to acquire self-knowledge and develop new skills?

So what makes a great learning leader?

In Five Ways of Being, we argue that learning should be at the heart of everything you do as a leader.

To achieve this aim, we want to help our educational leaders become more trusting, brave, compelling, purposeful and focused on growth.

Being a learning leader requires a conscious commitment to the development of both ourselves and others in the ongoing pursuit of learning for all.

In my experience, the schools and the teams that truly put learning first, and manage to make a massive difference on a huge scale, have a commitment to each other and the development of themselves as learners.

Where to start?

We suggest asking yourself the following three questions:

  • How can I genuinely lead learning and others?
  • How can I create an environment that helps my colleagues become learning leaders?
  • What do I need to do to make this happen?

A big part of the last question is spending some time figuring out the kind of leader you are right now, and who you’d like to become.

Of course this process won’t happen overnight, and nor should it.

Developing your empathy

One of the major areas we focus on in Five Ways of Being is putting learning at the centre of everything we do.

But it’s also vital to place empathy at the core of your leadership.

Empathy is how you connect with the person sitting across from you, and the act of seeing them fully.

Unfortunately, it’s often one of the first things that is cast aside when we get stressed and just need to get the job done.

However recognising others as human beings – opinions, emotions and experiences and all – is central to our identity as learning leaders, and is crucial in building trust and strong relationships.

Why no leadership model is better than another

While writing the book, we researched almost 25 different models of leadership.

For example, there’s quiet leadership, where the leader knows it’s not all about them, but is relentless in building greatness through a combination of humility and professional will.

Or authentic leadership, where leaders believe the constant growth of themselves and others is key to success.

Among the many others, there’s also distributive leadership – probably one of the most prominent theories of leadership in our field. It focuses on engaging employees in decisions that directly relate to their role, giving them a sense of purpose and commitment.

No matter which style or styles of leadership you may draw on, remember that none of them are right or wrong.

It’s really about finding strategies that helps you discover genuine aspects of yourself, in the pursuit to author your own leadership story – and help others do the same.

Want to find more about our Five Ways of Being?

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