What kind of leaders do we hope for? Doris Kearns Goodwin discussed qualities of strong leaders at the ASCD Empower 19 Conference. She spoke of leaders who have the capacity for inspiring and motivating others. These leaders create a culture of respect.
Notice the wording: CREATE a culture of respect. Respect is not demanded. Respect is created. Respect is created by the words and actions of the leaders. I think about leaders who have created this kind of environment. A respectful environment is created by listening, seeking to understand, and valuing people. These leaders guide and protect those they serve. Most of us desire leaders who can motivate us and inspire us to be the very best we can be. It really comes down to the leaders knowing the hearts of the people they serve, and the people trusting the hearts of their leaders. Trust for many people develops over time, after listening to and watching the actions of leaders.
When times are tough, how do strong leaders speak? Do they speak in a way that condemns or berates? Do they speak with wisdom that brings understanding? How do leaders treat their people? Even in times of conflict, is the focus on doing what's in the best interest of the people one serves? Words and actions can inspire and motivate. That’s what good leaders do. Consider each quote below – (though some may disagree) what does the heart convey?
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; . . . who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”
“You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, "you are free to compete with all the others," and still justly believe that you have been completely fair. We seek not just legal equity but human ability, not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact and equality as a result.”
“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
Consider too, the words of leaders from the Bible and the words of Jesus. These words touch my heart and my very soul. Jesus speaks words of wisdom and light. His sermons, his words to followers, his words to “outcasts”, his stories and questions – give hope and redemption. But it is not only His words that matter; it is the actions of Jesus. He not only spoke in a way that inspired and motivated people, he made the ultimate sacrifice of a leader – taking on our sins, suffering our pains, living our sorrows… He was given the strength to die in order to set us free. “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.” Look at how Jesus used his power. In all words and actions Jesus used his power to show his love for mankind.
Give us leaders and teachers who inspire and motivate. Give us leaders and teachers who create a culture of respect and love. Give us leaders and teachers whose actions show how they value those they serve.