As I reviewed my reflection on leadership, I began to think about how leadership shows itself in business and education. Are the contexts so different that the actual concept of leadership is different?
Leadership is about inspiring a team to achieve a shared goal, which is made possible because of the social and intellectual capital of the group. It’s about using the influence that you have built up within the group to add value and help not only individuals learn and grow stronger, but support the team in moving toward their shared vision. All of the things that you choose to do or not do shape the culture, relationships and success of the team.
As an educator, I’m part of many different teams. The teacher in a classroom has a unique opportunity each semester to support the development of a strong learning team by involving his/her students in the learning process. Teachers work with other teachers, admin, parents, support staff and student support services professionals in a constant search to respond to the needs of the student in a way that creates the best learning environment possible. As educators, we are all on the same team. Our ultimate goal is to support students in reaching their learning outcomes in the best ways that we can.
As an entrepreneur, I’m also part of many different teams. The world of network marketing and direct sales is built on teams. Teams that work well together propel all of the contributing individuals towards their goals. You can always work alone but the synergy that comes from being part of a positive, inspiring, cohesive team is revitalizing.
While the specific goals we are trying to achieve may be quite different, the concept of leadership is consistent. Whether I’m working in education or business, genuine leadership makes a difference in achieving the outcomes. Leadership styles will vary based on the specific leader, the team and the context. How you get to the goals you set will be different, but the factors that support the coevolution of social and intellectual capital will be the same.
Granted there we be specific parts that may be more difficult in one realm or the other but the concept itself still holds true. Take for example Jim Collin’s idea that before you can go anywhere you must first have the right people on the bus. Ensuring you have the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus isn’t always as easy as it sounds. As a teacher, you don’t get to pick the students in your class and often as a business leader you don’t have the authority to change your team. The idea of starting with who is on the bus is still valid. You have to know the people on your team or in your class in order to truly build a culture of excellence. It goes back to creating a shared identity, so that we are all working our our fullest potential.
Uniting a team begins by building trusting relationships. Covey (2006) offered 13 practical ways to build trust. While these trust building behaviours may show themselves differently in a classroom or an office, the behaviours are the same. Purposefully, creating and maintaining trust within the network increases the likelihood of people interacting positively. This in turn builds social capital which increases the chances of people exchanging knowledge. As the social capital grows, so to does the intellectual capital. As a community evolves shared stories begin to emerge, which help shape the group’s identity. Daily interactions lead to shared language and codes which increase communication and build a resilient culture.
Creating a trusting environment in a classroom means that students will feel more comfortable stepping outside their comfort zone. As a learner, they will be open to taking risks, trying new strategies and making connections to new information. Students that trust their teachers will become more involved in the classroom, which creates more opportunities for knowledge sharing interactions and decreases behavior challenges. The same is true in business. In direct sales, for example, building a team matters. If I’m worried about my upline’s motives, I’m less likely to work as part of team. This in turn means that I lose out on mentoring opportunities and the chance to be part of a learning environment which could help push myself and my own team to new levels of success.
People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it (Sinek, 2014). Whether people are consuming an actual product or the act of learning itself, they still want to know why you are teaching it and that you value their perspective in the exchange. We all want to feel valued.
Leadership style will vary from one situation to another. How people inspire or scare others into achieving the desired goal of the group happens through different strategies. You will find all types of leaders in business and education. The type of leader isn’t mutually exclusive to one domain or the other. The leader is ultimately shaped by his or her personal choices within the context he or she is attempting to lead. The concepts that I’ve suggested to be common to leadership are foundational to leaders in both education and business settings. Building trust, creating shared stories, shaping a common identity and context, enhancing communication and sharing knowledge are all significant in building a connected team. So while the logistics and specific activities of developing team relationships may be unique to each setting, the path to becoming a leader worth following shares the same road.
goal more effectively because together the whole is stronger and better equipped