Long gone are the days when leaders hoarded information for power. Today, presidents, CEOs and leaders are also teachers that strive to share their knowledge to create better relationships and improve productivity and employee satisfaction.
Yes, leaders are teachers!
He may not have exactly pioneered the 'leader teacher' concept, but Jack Welch, the former Chairman and CEO of General Electric, was way ahead of his time in terms of his own leadership practice. Through his own leadership experience, he's helped popularize the idea of the leader-as-teacher, and was once quoted as saying: "As a leader, you have to have a teachable point of view."
Still not convinced? Here's some food for thought!
Think about an excellent teacher you had in the past. They might have encouraged, motivated and helped you discover opportunities that incorporated your talents. Perhaps you had a football coach that taught you how to maximize your speed over distance, but at the same time he also reminded you of the importance of maintaining academic attainment. Or maybe it was your family or friends teaching you to continue pushing yourself to succeed in the areas you love...
We've had many teachers throughout our lives, and if you've ever had to work under a leader, this is yet another example.
How is a Leader a Teacher?
A successful leader knows the value of personal interaction on a professional level. Of course there are always going to be exceptions to the rule. And of course there are always going to be those leaders that are more worried about their own status and achievements rather than of those they influence.
A desire to achieve is commendable. A desire to achieve is also momentarily good for a company's profits. However, in the long run, this will not work, as there's a massive difference between managing to the point of success and teaching people to find that success themselves.
Through teaching and mentoring employees, a leader is able to show a person that they can become something much more than they'd ever imagined - it's like dipping your toes into the world of make-believe and fantasy that you so loved as a child all over again...
In short, a leader has many teaching skills. Perhaps they don't have the formal educational training under their belts, but this doesn't mean they're not qualified to teach and share knowledge. In fact great leaders have some admirable teaching skills; they just need to be able to tap into them and utilize them. If you're wondering what kind of teaching skills a leader has, read on...
Leaders Bring Out the Best in Others
Even when faced with a crisis, an exemplary leader will influence and motivate no matter what. With both optimism and drive, a teacher sets an example and encourages others to work to his or her potential. In other words, a leader as a teacher will bring out the best in their team.
A Leader as a Teacher Inspires Trust
Trust is an essential component in any learning scenario, and if implemented well, team members will always know that their leaders have their backs. Of course teachers must have a certain amount of authority, but at the same time they're also included in the learning process.
Like teachers, good leaders also utilize this teaching skill. A case in point might be when a leader's willing to give their team members hands-on training or to help troubleshoot a problem instead of just simply ordering and expecting them to be followers. Glenn Llopis of the Glenn Llopis Group sums this up well: "problem solving is about people working together to make the organization and people it serves better."
Good Leaders and Good Teachers are Good Role Models
A leader or a teacher can preach all they like, but this will never foster commitment. When a team sees its leader or teacher modeling the right way to handle things, it will follow. Therefore modeling is far more effective than giving a speech about it.
When the Miller Valentine Group had to make an all-important grand opening event happen within very little time, CEO Terry Callahan stepped in and asked how he could help. Rolling up his sleeves, he literally got down and dirty, proving that 'leadership isn't just about titles and ranks'; it's also about setting positive examples and demonstrating that you're committed to your beliefs.
Finding the Balance Between Being a Manager and a Teacher
A leader has to wear many hats. Not only is a leader a teacher, they're also a manager, however it's important to know when to switch between the two roles.
For example, if an employee doesn't operate to his full potential because the project hasn't been fully communicated to him, a leader has two options. They can put their teacher hat on and put in some serious teaching time to ensure the employee is brought back up to scratch. Or they can put a managerial hat on and hand him a manual. In this case, a good leader will become a teacher and follow the first example.
If on the other hand, the same employee has a low production level even after all the leader's personal input, time and teaching it's time to switch hats and become the manager by implementing an accountability process.
The moral of the story is, a leader should be a teacher first and a manager second. It's all about balance and knowing when is the right time to teach and when is the right time to manage.