In a forced-choice question, "What ONE thing do you value most in a teacher?", I would answer INITIATIVE.
Yes, when all else is listed and prioritized, when I sit back and contemplate the teachers who have made the strongest impression on me and achieved the most with their students, the characteristic which tops the list is initiative.
I was reminded of this by Jonathan Becker's straight-to-the-point posting on Leadertalk titled Leadership without Followers. He quotes Harvard professor Chris Dede's four attributes of true leadership:
- Envisioning Opportunities
- Displacing Cherished Misconceptions
- Inspiring Others to Act on Faith
- Discouraging Followers
It was that last point that grabbed me, shook me, and served as a reminder that I do NOT need other Greg Farr running around trying to run programs, design lessons, and deliver effective teaching. Clones, dopplegangers, imitators of me are precisely NOT what I should be trying to build within my staff.
Thank you Jonathan and Chris for the reminder that what I really should continue working on is to build a staff not afraid to take initiative and try new things. I often use the analogy that my staff is an orchestra and I'm the conductor. Perhaps I need to clarify that analogy.
My staff is a Jazz band and I should work to promote improvisation and variations of the theme.
I don't want to turn around and see my staff dutifully following me in perfect lock-step like the Texas Longhorn Band (no disrespect to a great college band).
I want to turn around and yes, see my staff following my overall direction. But I hope it's a crazy, crooked line, strewn from one side of the street to the other, juking, spinning, New Orleans Style Jazz Band in full-out hang-loose syncopated glory, wildly playing together yet varied in individual style.