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Let Nature Work and Isolation as a Leader (pages 123-125)

Part One: Leadership Strategies, 2. Core Tenets, J. Let Nature Work, K. Isolation as a Leader, (pages 123-125)

J. Let Nature Work

People are born with certain traits and their life experiences have provided them with other traits. It is nature and nurture that have formed one's qualities and behaviors. It is not the leader's responsibility to discern if a person’s trait was from nature or nurture. However, the leader must understand how to best utilize their team member's traits to support the mission. The pragmatic way to go about this is to match a person's traits with the job. The leader must be cautious not to stereotype their team members by only assigning them jobs that specifically match their characteristics. The leader must sometimes place team members in uncomfortable positions to allow them to grow and strengthen the team. Nevertheless, aligning a team member's traits with their job will only go to making them like their work and do a better job. “Don’t fight against nature. Use it.”

A good leader's job is to not only understand the team member's strengths and weaknesses but be able to both bolster their strengths and improve their weaknesses. The tricky part is how to place the team member in a position that does not align with one of their strengths and not let them fail. While some say if you’re not failing you’re not trying hard enough. That is not the case in this type of situation. If the leader allows a team member to consistently fail, it will destroy that team member's confidence and severely hinder the success of the team. When the leader places a team member in a unique situation with the idea of growth in mind, the leader needs to provide guidance and support. And if there is a failure, the leader takes full responsibility. Extreme ownership.

K. Isolation as a Leader

The “burden of command” is that while finding consensus and seeking guidance during decision making is important, the final decision is made by the leader alone. Additionally, leadership can be lonely due to isolation from team members and working longers days than most. “That being said, while leadership can be isolating, it does not have to be lonely.” A savvy leader can build relationships with their team members and at the same time keep a professional distance. Eventually, the leader will end up with a few trusted team members. This will allow them to have a better understanding of the “pulse of the team”. However, “relationships do not mean preferential treatment. Relationships do not mean undue influence. And, relationships do not mean unfiltered candor and completely revealing one’s thoughts.” While this can be a difficult task, the leader must always error on the side of being professional.

I will tell my new principals that they need to be at work earlier than staff members and stay later. That type of work ethic sets the tone for the rest of the building. If they are new to administration, I state that they do not need to make friends, but they need to be friendly. I also let them know that they will undoubtedly feel isolated. As former teachers, they were accustomed to working as a team. Now, they are sometimes the only administrator in the building. That can get lonely. To combat that, I assign a veteran administrator as a mentor and require weekly check-ins. I also communicate with them regularly. While being a building administrator can be lonely at times, there is no better feeling than leading a successful building. I have held a variety of administrative positions in my career to date. I would have to say that my five years as an elementary principal was extremely gratifying and definitely a highlight in my career.

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© 2019 by Erik Bentzel. 

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