Ten Things We Learned From Our First Leadership Coaches – Our Teachers – Part 2
Leadership Lesson: Hands down, teachers were our very first leadership coaches, pushing us to be curious about the world around us, keeping us accountable to what they knew we could deliver, and trying to make sure the lessons they shared stuck long after the partnership ended.
What We Learn About Others
Through this third group of attributes, we learned how to interact with and impact others through the methods and approaches teachers utilized with their students and others. This group builds off of the previous two groups established in Part I of this series — the curiosity foundation and what we learned about ourselves.
Teachers have been partners in some of the first great conversations we’ve had. These were conversations much different from those we had with our parents, which tended to be driven more by emotion. They were also unlike the conversations we had with friends, which tended to be more relaxed and indulgent. The one-on-one conversations our teachers modeled were both an extension of the previously mentioned accountability and a precursor to the facilitation to be covered below. Teachers pushed you to think as an individual in the moment (facilitating thought in oneself), while pushing you to come through for yourself (accountability).
Leadership can’t happen without one-on-one connections. One may be leading a group, or force of people, but individual connection needs to be made so each person sees their role in the grand scheme of things.
Teachers were also the first examples we had of facilitation. They tried to draw what they could out of their students, who had come from different educational levels, backgrounds, and experiences. They opened up conversations to the greater group and participants, drawing out our opinions and pushing us to expand on our beliefs. They demonstrated the power of talking to others — bringing their ideas out and them together in an open forum with others.
Nothing in leadership can happen without understanding how to draw out the best in people and allowing others to see that process in action as you do it. I would argue this is one of the best qualities for a leader to have. That they can speak to those they work with and genuinely reflect their desire to both learn and start a conversation is absolutely essential to true leadership. It’s never about what a leader does on their own or delivers merely of themselves, but instead about what a leader can exemplify for and draw out of others that makes them effective. Opening up communication between people, and fostering, empowering, and guiding a conversation does just that.
Encouragement obviously deserves its own position here. Again, parents provide a certain level of encouragement, but teachers provide a second round for the student, one that varies a bit since the emotion which can exist in the family bond is left out of the educational interaction. The teacher is a bit more objective because of that lack of familial tie. This isn’t to say the teacher can’t feel a tie to his or her students. But the mission of the teacher is different than that of the parents, so although its driven toward the same ends and goals, it’s done so utilizing different means and methods.
Leadership can’t exist without encouragement. How we push others to provide for themselves as well as for us leads to the results we get. If a leader doesn’t understand that they are there to, first and foremost, encourage the best out of their charges, the purpose of leadership has been lost. Leadership success is not about the appearance or reputation of a leader; it’s instead about what is brought out of those who are influenced by the leader.
Many teachers are not only teachers, but also participate in other areas of the educational field, or in the community itself. You’d be hard-pressed to not find a teacher outside of their profession, contributing to their community or organization in different capacities. They provided a great example that life wasn’t only about giving through one’s job, but also about contributing in the best fashion possible in whatever else we may be capable of providing and sharing.
Leadership should encourage the enhancement and improvement of community, whether internally to an organization or outside and beyond its walls into the greater community. Making it all about the work keeps the focus of the people narrow. By narrowing that focus, they can become consumed by the goal, hypnotized by the mission, and blind to the greater, overall picture of what/who is being served – the community. The community and the mission should coexist, as they both impact the individual in equal parts.
Lastly, teachers teach and model the skill and power of…teaching. It may seem obvious or overly-simplified, but it’s not. Think about how much power exists in shaping a lesson to share with others who look to you for your specialized knowledge. Think about the ripple effect of impact originating from the teachings and teaching style of the teacher. Teachers can bestow long-lasting knowledge, effect, and impact on those who stand witness to a their methods.
Leadership can’t exist without the ability to teach someone something they don’t know or, at the very least, without providing insight into something each person has not realized about the world around them or themselves. And everyone can be a teacher. It’s a matter of seeking out, realizing, and refining what it is each of us is good enough in to share with others.
Teachers were our first and ultimate examples of leadership coaching. Granted, not in a traditional coaching sense. But, overall, I would argue they’re still our best example of a well-rounded leadership. And leadership, overall, in its most basic form, and at its best, is influence through example.
And there’s no reason why the window for learning those lessons has passed, thinking that those lessons could only have been realized and appreciated in the past. I’m sure that in reading this series you’ve recalled certain teachers who made an impact on you in some fashion. There’s always time to change, evolve, and get better going forward, by looking to the past for the best — the best examples, the best lessons, the best teachers.
None of this is to discount the role our parents play in our development. It just so happened we spent more time with these other role models. Also, everything at home tended to be more emotional than educational – we’d get wrapped up in typical parent/child relationship issues as opposed to the more organized and structured curriculum our teachers followed.
But both served their purposes, in different ways, to advance us in a life of improvement, growth, and development. They both wanted the best for us. The different kinds of structures provided for different environments, contributions, approaches, and, eventually, results.
Thank you to all our teachers for all they’ve ever done for us. Hopefully, you understand how much you impacted our lives, whether we ourselves recognize it or not.
Thank you for teaching us about the blackboard of life that’s full of possibilities.