Monday, April 21, 2014

Lumiere Education Academy; Developing Your Leadership Ability

In every sphere of life, from the house to the boardroom, there is a need for true leaders. However, what is also needed is for leaders to have empathy and humanity. There are practical strategies that can help us develop a personal plan for developing our own gift of leadership potential.

Leadership skills are the learned attributes that make the leader more effective in assisting others. Essential leadership skills include the following;
1. A sound set of values
2. Skill at communicating effectively
3. Skill in managing conflicts
4. Ability to manage stress, change
5. Good time management
6. Ability to use critical thinking
7. Ability to plan ahead
8. Ability to train, motivate, delegate and evaluate the work of others

Leaders need to demonstrate;
1. Emotional maturity
2. Self-management skills
3. Group-process skills
4. Change-management skills
5. Systems-thinking skills
6. Advocacy ability 

Formal leaders are those who are officially designated to carry out a leadership role. 
Informal leaders are those chosen by the work group themselves, as a leader to whom they look up to. Informal leaders often have the following characteristics;
1. Good communication skills
2. Approachable 
3. Others go to them for advice and support
4. Good work experience
5. Special competencies
6. Special personal characteristics.

Leaders are people who have committed themselves to learning the skills that allow them to show the way forward for others. 
Leadership characteristics often include;
1.  Ability to empower others
2.  Ability to create enthusiasm for the work at hand
3.  Ability to inspire others 
4.  High level of motivation
5.  Good experience 
6.  Ability to learn from difficult experiences
7.  Ability to stay calm
8.  Professional manner in all circumstances
9.  Dress and appearance professional, neat and well groomed
10. Facial expression friendly
11. Good posture, with head and shoulders held up
12. Arms and hands composedly at sides, not crossed
13. Tone of voice calm and assured
14. Good writing skills 
15. Ability to listen and clearly understand 
16. Ability to be objective
17. Ability to be positive

So; How does this work?
Let us imagine a day at a Music School. I am the newly appointed Head of the School, which teaches Operetta to aspiring singers. The School has been financially struggling recently, and the numbers of students are down. I ensure that I am at work slightly early (time management). I have prepared for my meetings with the Heads of Departments the night before (plan ahead). I am professionally and neatly dressed and groomed (professional manner and dress). 

We have our meeting of the day, and it becomes clear that there is conflict between the Heads of Department. I listen to their views (ability to listen and clearly understand). When voices escalate and feelings flare, I remain calm (skill in managing conflict, ability to stay calm). I remain objective, and stay positive (ability to be objective, ability to be positive). When I have heard all out, I make a synopsis of what the trouble appears to be  - confusion with the times of the roster of the singing classes (ability to sum up a situation).
I maintain respect for all the Department Heads, and speak about my synopsis with clarity in a given period of time (good communication skills). I undertake to study all the Department Head proposals, meet with each in turn, and come to a solution which will be acceptable to all (skill in management).

I ensure I get a short break from work, and enjoy a relaxing few minutes with a cup of tea and a snack to build my strength and unwind from the pressure of the meeting (ability to manage stress). Thereafter, I set about drawing a new roster that will be suitable for the needs of all. I realise, when studying the situation, that there is a reason why the roster is not working so well - Department Heads have not been keeping to the class schedule times. The resultant delay in changeover of classes has built up during the days, holding back singing studies (ability to assess). I realise that the Teachers' abilities could possibly be better utilised if they consider a framework to their classes based on the latest recommendations from the leading Singing Colleges (critical thinking). I consult with experts re same. The end result is that I need to present a new format for the roster to the Heads of Department, and explain my rationale for the roster (Good experience, high level of motivation, ability to inspire others, ability to stay calm). 

I discuss the roster with the Department Heads, and delegate to them the task of putting the plan into action (group-process skills, systems-thinking skills, change management skills, ability to plan ahead, ability to train/motivate/delegate to others). I ensure that sufficient time and space is given to the Department Heads to carry out a check as to the viability in the actual singing classes of the new roster (ability to delegate). Thereafter I organise a further meeting, and quantifiably evaluate the results of the classes (from the paperwork, I check how the class times have been utilised, and how the students are progressing). I note, together with the Department Heads, that the changeover of students between classes is going more smoothly, less time is being wasted, and that the students' average marks have risen 10% since the time of the new change. I thus deduce that the students have benefited from a more structured curriculum and the implementation of the latest recommendations from the leading Singing Colleges (Evaluation). I document the same (good writing skills).

I realise that I have an Informal Leader among my Staff. Miss M, a Department Head of many years standing and an empathetic manner, has the ear of all the Department Heads. The other Heads went to her for advice and support. Miss M advised they give the new roster a try, and to bring back the results of the trial - whether good or bad - to our next meeting. The results turned out to be good, and her calm understanding and support, together with her years of experience, made her a valuable asset in my team.
So; I continue on with leadership at the Singing College, ensuring that both my way of life and the way of life at the Singing College reflect a sound moral set of values.

In the interim I have discovered that a student has been experiencing bullying. I listen to the student, weigh up the relevant facts, and speak to the other students involved, their teachers and their parents in an appropriate manner. I resolve the issue (Advocacy). My set of values ensures that my leadership skills hold, as most important, the progress and peace of mind of my students in the environment of learning they find themselves (sound set of values).

Good luck with your Leadership! 

Disclaimer; the example above is from the imagination of the author. It is not intended to replicate any life or professional experience. Please use the example as a springboard of principles which can be applied to any field of work

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