Leadership: indicatives vs imperatives

As a qualified administrator, I have a vested interested in believing that my formal qualification indicates that I am a leader, and moreover, that I deserve to be. Not so.

While studying leadership at Johns Hopkins, the literature suggested over and over that leaders were more born than made, and coming to believe this more and more myself, I guess I should have dropped out.  Irony aside, I now interpret everything I read about leadership differently.  Whether reading about authentic leaders or servant leaders, we should see lists of characteristics as indicative (these characteristics describe the type of leader), not imperative (do these things and you will be that type of leader).

This isn’t to say that there is no room for development, but there are very real boundaries. For example, collaboration and transparency can be practiced.  Other traits of successful leadership such as candor (Murphy, 2007) are difficult to practice, because they are simply a personality trait.

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Why does everyone want to be a leader?

Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made president should on no account be allowed to do the job.
– Douglas Adams

I’ve been thinking a lot about the psychology of leadership lately. Both my own and that of others. Every sector has its share of people in leadership who just don’t belong there, and education is no different. Education is unique though in that leadership really is the only path available to those that have professional and/or money ambitions.

A relative of mine who just took an entry-level coding job in silicon valley told me that after three weeks on the job, he received a $20k raise. If he is ambitious, what will he do? He will continue to work hard, develop his skills and learn how to make even better products within a team. If he does, he will almost certainly have many more $20k raises in his future, and with a little luck, he will hop to a new job with stock options or hit it big working for himself.

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