I’ve seen it – sad – disappointing – missing the boat. I have seen and felt how it goes with leaders that do not have self confidence when it comes to people who disagree or question. Sometimes leader thinking goes like this: Those people are trouble; they question; they stir things up; they go against the grain…! So how do we get those people out? How do we shut them up and shut them down? If we rid ourselves of these malcontents – then we can soar; then we will be a team; then we will succeed. Yep, it’s time to clean house. We want people that think like us, believe like us, and will approve of all we do. We have no room for people that disagree. We don’t care if they are good at what they do – they don’t fit. Out with the old, and in with the new who support us as leaders and all that we do.
What does a strong leader seek? People who believe like them and think like them? I listened to Doris Kearns Goodwin speak at the ASCD Empower 19 Conference. Ms. Goodwin emphasized how strong leaders have the self-confidence to surround themselves with strong minded people, even if they disagree. As a matter of fact, strong leaders value a “trusted person willing to speak truth to power.”
We need strong leaders in education: leaders with a heart and leaders with the strength to surround themselves with people who question and disagree. We will go nowhere with leaders who seek only to have a staff that agrees with them, who believe in them blindly, who trust their every move and motive without question… If we look at history, we know this does not end well. AND our whole goal as an education community is not to develop sheep; it is to develop citizens who fight for continued freedom, who imagine, who create, who question and in the process strengthen the views and ideas of others.
I am one of those people who seem to question everyone and everything. Respect from me has to be earned. I don’t give respect lightly. I don’t mean to hurt people when I question. Questioning is a part of who I am. I even question God almost each and every day. God allows me to do so. He accepts me. He loves me. He listens to me. When God created man, He gave him a brain. Man has free will. God allows man to think. God allows us to question Him.
Strong leaders know how to create an environment of respect and acceptance with people who question and disagree. These leaders value “truth” and in the process the people around them value their leader who listens. A true team is filled with different people who question and speak truth. This A-team has a leader who values differences and questions. The leader through his/her actions develops a sense of community and respect. The team works to benefit those they serve.
Leaders may desire like thinking and may want smooth sailing with people who support them. What some leaders don’t realize is the loyalty and support you gain when you approve of differences and allow voice. People will work hard for leaders who value them. Sometimes people who disagree may have some points to consider. Their thoughts and advice could save a leader from making mistakes.
Strong leaders are not afraid of having strong minded people around them. Strong leaders value truth. Strong leaders listen to disagreement before they make decisions. Strong leaders hear questions and formulate answers in their mind to make their position one of strength. A strong leader has the self-confidence to surround him/herself with other strong people & thoughts. Surrounding oneself with those who always agree is a loss. Victory in agreement will have been won, but the real battle will have been lost.