Critical reflection on leadership

I have been teaching for over 20 years now and in that time have experienced many different leaders both as principals and in other leadership roles within the school.  I have been in different leadership positions myself within the school and have had very little specific knowledge about leadership styles until this semester of my studies. I have however been able to observe within myself and others qualities that make for positive leadership and qualities (or lack of) that detract from leadership.

In ETL504 Teacher Librarian as Leader I have been able to delve deeply into different theories and styles of leadership and start to discern what it is that makes a good leader. Up to this point in my career I had been able to see the effects of good leadership and ineffective leadership but was not always able to pinpoint exactly what it was that made the person so effective or ineffective. I have learned that leadership is a complex and multifaceted role with many concepts and abilities that must operate together in order to be effective and positive and create a school culture that fosters happiness, satisfaction, commitment and motivation.

One of the leaders that I have worked with and most admire is a principal that I used to have (since retired) whom everybody loved. One of his greatest skills was in building relationships with others in all areas of the school community and recognising people for every little effort or achievement that they made. This man knew the name of every student, and their parents and often grandparents, in that school and called them all by name when he spoke with them. He made everyone feel special, empowered and acknowledged in a way that made them want to do the best they could for him and for themselves. Our staff was a team, we laughed, cried, celebrated and commiserated together and enjoyed coming to work every day. He is someone who I think of when considering how to handle a situation and someone who I will try to emulate when my turn comes to be in a leadership role again.

On the other hand I have worked with another principal who in the space of only three years was able to turn a happy, enthusiastic and social staff into a group of mostly isolated individuals who were not so happy to be at work, who felt dictated to rather than being part of a team and who rarely got together in the staffroom, let alone socially outside of work. This man, through the qualities he lacked, has taught me the importance of utilising the expertise and experience of others on staff as well as acknowledging the efforts of all, the benefits of shared leadership and collaboration and the essential ability of relationship building and social skills.

Being in a leadership position, as a teacher librarian is expected to be, is a daunting task but one that I feel more confident in approaching as my studies continue and my knowledge broadens. I hope that in the future I can be a leader that others describe as effective and that I can empower others to be leaders too.

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