Don’t be afraid to lead…

Leadership matters! We all know it – some may not want to admit it – but leadership does matter, especially when we experience ineffective leadership or worse, when we are the ineffective leader.

As a leader, sometimes you have to articulate a vision and set the direction. Sometimes you have to share your perspective. Sometimes you have to be the leader and let others learn from your experience. As the late Stephen Covey once wrote:

It doesn’t matter how hard you climb the ladder of success if your ladder is up against the wrong wall.

That’s leadership – making sure our educational ladders are up against the right wall.

While much has been written about shared leadership and the advantages of shared responsibility, leaders can’t allow themselves to be marginalized; shared leadership doesn’t mean no leadership. Sometimes leaders lead by example, but there are times when leaders must lead through purposeful articulation. Leading by example only works when you have people’s attention; without their attention the lessons in the example go unlearned. As John Kotter, author of Buy-In, writes:

The single biggest challenge people face when they need to gain buy-in for a good idea is simply getting people’s attention.


  • …you have to directly address practices you know are far from ideal.
  • …you have to push back against practices that are punitive, unreasonable, or unfair.
  • …you have to make it clear what you can and can’t support.
  • …you have to be comfortable with others’ professional discomfort.

The real question is when; when can a leader be the leader and lead? It really comes down to two things: trust and credibility.

If those you work with trust you and believe you have their best interest in mind they will be more open to being led. Without that trust, people are cautious about following and can’t be sure that you fully support them. So first, leaders must earn trust by proving they are trustworthy. Trust is critical, however, it’s incomplete.

The second component is credibility. Credibility is established when you have shown that you know what you’re talking about. It doesn’t mean that you must have done something; often great leaders have not served in every role within a school or organization. However, it does mean that you have a level of expertise, have done your due diligence, have considered the most favorable course of action, and have the experience to navigate the inevitable bumps and challenges.

Credibility and trust are both earned. Leaders can’t be afraid to lead, but without the necessary levels of trust and credibility, the potential influence of that leadership could be compromised. With high levels of trust and credibility, others are less likely to take challenges to the status quo personally, resist the clearly articulated vision, or feel unsupported.

9 thoughts on “Don’t be afraid to lead…

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your post on leadership. I agree 100% that leadership does matter! I have always had a ” go with the flow” personality. Although, I am a highly responsible person and my peers are always coming to me for decision making and advice. I am just terribly shy, and I try not to step on anyone’s toes. I see where leadership is tremendously important if one has trust and credibility that is the two main components in being a successful leader.

    Stephen Covery said, “It does not matter how hard you climb the ladder of success if your ladder is up against the wrong wall.” In my opinion, I think the saying means all the work you put into something is useless if you are doing it for the wrong reasons or with the wrong goal in mind. Correct me if I am wrong, but I just felt that if one works hard it only pays off if working towards the right things in life.

    Lastly, I like how you mentioned that trust and credibility are both necessary in being a leader. It makes no sense for someone to follow and agree with anything anyone is saying if they do not trust that person. Trust is vital in any relationship we have involving human contact. Credibility is a main factor as well, because a leader needs to look as if they know what they are talking about. If a leader has no facts to back themselves up with, then they would look very poorly when trying to prove a point. I think we need more leaders in our society today. I think we need more people to stand up and speak what they believe, and less followers!

    I really enjoyed reading your post!

    Kayla Walker- EDM 310 Student at South Alabama

  2. I am sitting in your seminar with a smile, thoroughly enjoying your delivery. You are clearly modelling a positive approach to creating a positive experience in the learning that takes in the classroom, not only for the students, but also for the educators! You have a great sense of humour! Thanks for the smile!

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