Thursday, February 22, 2007

Powerful. Intense. Ardent. Fervent. Profound. Impassioned.

I've been giving a great deal of thought to leadership. In my mind, management and leadership are entirely different entities and I'm not even sure they can coexist.

1.the act or manner of managing; handling, direction, or control.
2.skill in managing; executive ability: great management and tact.
3.the person or persons controlling and directing the affairs of a business, institution, etc.: The store is under new management.
4.executives collectively, considered as a class.
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The quality of being able to lead others; leadership ability.
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Management has class structure, which tips the scale toward an 'us vs. them' mentality. It lends itself to rigid structures within an organization where the value of people is diminished to their 'production' capabilities. To me, management has negative connotations, perhaps because I've been 'managed' and found it degrading. By definition management is the need to handle, direct and control those in some one's employ.

Leadership, on the other side of the fence, can turn out to be one of those illusive and shadowy ideals. No doubt that it is a current buzz word in industry these days - but lets be honest, under the guise of leadership, traditional management practices prevail.

Leadership is for all. Leadership is about personal integrity. Great leaders know how to direct their own lives and can do so with consideration for the greater good. Leadership is about personal responsibility. That I choose everyday to get up with purpose and accomplish in my own life the goals and objectives that I have set out. Leadership is about making a difference. Having courage in the face of those who are 'managed' to act on my own accord and live up to the high standards I set for myself.

I believe that as a society we need to move from a climate of management to leadership. As a teacher, I know that it is easier to manage than to lead - because it means putting people in their place and assessing them on well defined qualitative and quantitative rules of engagement and production values. In the end, a student passes or fails all under my direction and control. When a student steps out of the defined model, we have well established methods of punishment to bring them back into the model boundaries.

I am certain that within organizations such as schools, we still need boundaries. And leadership is about discipline, but it is self-discipline and the edges are blurred. There is more room for mistakes. There is more room for creativity. More room for expressive thought. More room to find new ways. And most importantly, more room for the individual and their unique contributions.

It is very possible and perhaps even easier to manage people without knowing who those people are. To lead, one must care about themselves and the well fare of those around them. Leading is not a 9 to 5 job. Leading does not allow time to 'numb-out' in front of the tv every night.

Leading is first and foremost about finding that fire within yourself. Believing that your contributions matter and that your still small voice is burning with desire to be more than you have ever been. We need to fan these flames until they are hot enough to consume any fear that prevents us from being the leader that is inside us.

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