A fake leader – a leader who pretends to be something he/she is not. This leader seeks power and success and admiration. This type of leader cares first and foremost about him/herself. It is all about adulation for what he/she does. It is about the opportunities for advancement and for glory. It is not about the people.
Doris Kearns Goodwin, at ASCD Empower 19 Conference, said that great leaders are approachable and accessible; they establish connections with the ordinary people.
Some leaders come to mind that had this ability to connect with everyday people in everyday life. Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader who listened to his people and connected with their situations. He made himself available to the common man and worked to right the wrongs taking place. He endured the same hardships and experienced the consequences of his work to change society – having been jailed, having his home bombed, hatred for his views and ideas…
Moses led his people out of slavery. He told Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” Notice he did not say, “Let THE people go.” He said, “Let MY people go.” He identified with the very people he was trying to help. He cared, and he worked to set the Hebrews free. What is very interesting to me is that Moses did not feel he had the qualifications to lead these people. He struggled to take on such a mission. Moses did not seek power and fame. His uncertainty in being a leader was one of the very ingredients that led to his greatness and to his success.
Jesus provides the best role model for real leadership. Jesus hung out with ordinary people: sinners, outcasts, the weak, the poor… People came from all over to hear his preaching and to see what this man was all about. He was accessible to all people. Think also about the words from scripture and take note of how Jesus addressed religious leaders of his time. He pointed out the lack of caring and concern for the common people. The scribes and Pharisees were “fake”; their words did not match their actions. Then read how Jesus talked to the common man. There was no doubt that His mission was one of love and caring. His actions matched his words. Look at how Jesus worked with his disciples. He loved them, taught them, encouraged them, and even washed their feet! – what a teacher! Jesus did not seek the glory of an earthly king, but the hardship of a Savior.
When we look at school leaders, what do we see? Do we see fake persona? Are the leaders seeking to put things in practice that will move them up the ladder? Or are the leaders truly looking at the needs and best interests of children? Are the leaders in touch with the children in their schools? Do the leaders identify with of all of their staff rather than listening to a few? Do the leaders have their own agenda or do they consider the make-up and needs of their individual schools?
Fake school leaders can bring “success”, but it might not be the success that is in the best interest of students and to their growth as productive citizens. The desire is to have leaders who are accessible to children, parents, and staff. Supposedly that’s what public schools are all about. Do we want leaders who focus on advancement or do we want a focus that puts the needs of children first? Real leaders value their staff and work to hear their voice. This can be compared to “washing the feet of their workers.” This builds a bond and shows that the leader is with these people through the ups and downs of their work. It shows trust for the work of those in the field. It is done in a spirit of sincerity, love, and respect. It is not fake. It is real! It is for the people.