Leadership as Teachership

Dr. Marc Hardy Teaching Leadership

By Marc Hardy, Ph.D.

Whenever I speak to a group of people about “Leadership through Sharing Fire,” I ask them to identify a person who had a positive impact on their life. This is someone they can point to and say, “If it wasn’t for this person, I would not be who and where I am today.” 80 percent of the time they identify a teacher who believed in them more than they believed in themselves and who helped them fulfill their potential. This is the person who practiced “sharing fire” with them and ignited to possibilities within.

To be remembered as a transformative leader, we need to see ourselves as a teacher who gives people the tools to create a better professional and personal life. If we want to be remembered as a person who truly had an impact on the lives of others and on an organization, we should be willing to share knowledge and guidance with those who we have authority over. As we help them develop, they become more confident and valuable to the organization, and more productive.

Some organizations have already implemented the “Leader as Teacher” model, such as the computer and electronics company, Advent. As they stated in case study of their use of the “Leader as Teacher” model:

“it has been able to effect knowledge transfer, increase cross-functional and divisional collaboration, inspire succession management, energize the leadership team, and  provide quality time with senior executives in a learning environment. In addition, the ‘buy-in factor’ from the line units has contributed to the rebirth of commitment and focus on people development. These connections serve multiple purposes, from role-model development to career coaching to senior level commitments.”[i]

We can be a teacher in a number of ways. Certainly offering professional development opportunities and training is important, but so is mentoring in the workplace. Teachers treat everything as a learning opportunity, even mistakes, viewing mistakes as a constructive opportunity to help improve a person’s job skills, not an occasion to berate them. That is the mark of a great leader and teacher.

If teachers have the greatest positive impact on our lives, then we do not need studies to tell us that when a leader becomes a teacher he or she helps create a positive, creative and innovative workplace. If we have ever had a teacher encourage us and believe in out potential, common sense dictates that leaders who think like teachers will have a loyal following and a strong organization. Most importantly, you will leave a legacy of positive leadership that people will point to and say “If it wasn’t for that person, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”

Dr. Marc Hardy is the Director of Nonprofit Certificate Education at the University of Notre Dame. He is also the creator of “Leadership through Sharing Fire,” (www.SharingFire.com) and can be emailed at DrMarc@SharingFire.com.

[i] (Hollis 2007)

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