In this fourth article in our Career Skills series, teacher trainer, lifecoach and ELT author Rachael Roberts explores the leadership skills that teachers have. She also looks at how teachers can become leadership role models for their students.
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Leadership skills are in demand
Leadership skills are not just for ‘the boss’. Workplaces are becoming less and less hierarchical, and as people are more likely to work in small teams, a greater number of employees need to possess leadership skills.
As teachers, we can play a key role in helping students to develop these skills. I would argue that we can demonstrate this to them by showing how such skills are useful in working with others in the workplace and elsewhere through our own behavior.
However, when I asked teachers attending my recent webinar on teaching leadership skills to ELT students if they saw themselves as a leader. Quite a few said ‘no’.
Teachers do indeed have a variety of roles. These include resource, facilitator, listener, provider of feedback, assessor, organizer – to name just a few. Many of these roles are absolutely not about standing at the front and ‘leading’ the students off down a pre-determined path. It is likely that those teachers who felt they weren’t leaders preferred to see themselves as facilitating, rather than leading.
That said, there are many different ways to be a good leader. And they don’t all involve being extrovert, charismatic and firmly in charge. It’s just as important to be empathic, creative, flexible, supportive, patient, a good listener, tactful and even humble. All qualities of a great teacher.
Showing our students how to be leaders
As teachers, we have the opportunity to provide good role models for our students and show them how to lead others in different ways.
We can demonstrate a willingness to listen carefully to others. At the same time, we can show a willingness to recognize that not everyone sees the world in the same way. These are both cornerstones of developing empathy.
As leaders and teachers, we can encourage creativity and flexible thinking. For example, asking them to come up with as many solutions as possible, rather than just one answer. By being willing to change our own plans when a better alternative presents itself, we can demonstrate this to students.
We can also model trustworthiness and integrity by keeping our promises. In turn, by showing our trust in them and gradually handing over more responsibility and opportunities to take initiative, we can encourage this in our students.
And, finally, through being willing to admit and face up to our own mistakes, we can our students the value of self-awareness and humility. We can show that being able to learn from our mistakes is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Think back to the teachers you remember from your own school days. Which ones had the most positive effect on you, and why? In what ways did they model and encourage you to develop leadership skills?
For more information, resources and webinars, check out our careers skills page.