Teach & Serve No. 14 – Most Effective Leaders Are Those Who Lay the Road for Pilgrimage

Teach & Serve 

No. 14 * November 3, 2015

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Most Effective Leaders Are Those How Lay the Road for Pilgrimage

Who do you want to follow? Someone who tells you exactly where to go or someone who points you on the way?

There are many measurements we apply to effective leaders as there are reams and reams of paper and megabyte after megabyte of data devoted to the topic. There are instruments for assessment of leaders. There are books written to inspire leaders. There are “Eye Tests” we tend to apply to our leaders.

“She doesn’t look the part – she’s too passive.”

“He got mad at me yesterday. He’s no leader, that’s for sure.”

I sometimes think the Eye Test is the most important test of leadership in an organization. Fail the Eye Test too many times and, yes, you fail leadership.

Middle ManagementThis week I am lucky enough to be a part of a wonderful group of educators putting on a conference called “Leaders in the Middle.” I have a good friend who would call this a conference for “middle management,” and maybe that’s entirely correct. The focus of this conference is on academic department chairs, those folks in schools who often have a title that implies and, in some case, imparts formal leadership, but they, almost as often, are not particularly well formed in what their roles are nor are they always effectively supported from above as they try to lead.

I cannot say that I think these four days the team and I will spend with these folks will solve all these issues. I can promise we will touch on each of them and we will try to work through them by supplying strategies for these middle managers.

But, if someone this week asks me what I think is a trait that all effective leaders share, I have my answer: effective leaders lay the road for pilgrimage.

In schools, we have our eyes fixed firmly on the moment while our hearts are directly inexorably toward the future. Professionals in schools are the ultimate example of the “now and not yet.”

The “now” is what we are doing, here, today – the lesson, the act, the play. It is the work we are absolutely about: teaching young women and men. Leading them to discover new knowledge. Helping them grow in fantastic ways.

The “not yet” is the fact that we know our work is not done. We know we are preparing our students for futures that we cannot imagine for them, for lives we cannot conceive or predict.

All of that implies journey, implies travel, implies pilgrimage.

Therefore, our school leaders must by the ones who pave the way, who understand the journey and who have some idea of how to follow the map. They are the ones pointing down a long, turning corridor where the end is not quite in sight. They are the ones shining a light for others to follow.

It doesn’t always mean they know where the end of the road actually is.

Leaders are honest in the approach to the path. A pilgrimage means work. It means struggle. It means effort.

All too often we want leaders who will tell us everything this okay. We want leaders who will give us the end before we’ve wondered about the beginning. We want leaders who’ve already walked the path.

I don’t think that’s the best kind of leader. The best kind of leader is one who invites others on the pilgrimage and inspires them to follow.

If I’m asked this week, that’s what I will say. I want a leader to point the way onto the path, to open the gates to the pilgrimage.

And to let me walk on…



Filed under Education, Education Blog, Ignatian Education, Jesuit Education, Teacher, Teacher Blog, Teaching

4 responses to “Teach & Serve No. 14 – Most Effective Leaders Are Those Who Lay the Road for Pilgrimage

  1. Pingback: Teach & Serve No. 15 – It’s Not What They Think, It’s How They Think | And There Came a Day...

  2. Pingback: Teach & Serve No. 16 – The Networked Reality | And There Came a Day...

  3. Pingback: Teach & Serve No. 17 – Giving Thanks for Our Own Gifts | And There Came a Day...

  4. Pingback: Teach & Serve No. 18 – Do the Undone | And There Came a Day...

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