What is a Leader?

Currently, I am in the process of pursuing a master’s degree in Educational Leadership, and through that study I have begun to develop a few thoughts about what leadership means.

First, I must preface this post with a little background information.  Last year, I deployed overseas as a psychological operations sergeant.  I had a team of three soldiers to lead, and there were many trying times in my leadership.  There were many wrong decision made.  There were many things I would have changed if I could do it all over again.  There were many situations I would have analyzed more closely before acting.

With that said, I do believe I have learned a few things about leadership, and I would like to share my thoughts here.

  1. Stewardship – A leader is someone who puts others needs before their own.  This is akin to self-sacrifice, and it I believe it is one of the most important traits of a successful leader.
  2. Communication – This one cannot be overstated.  It is a close second to stewardship.  Communication is a skill that can make or break a leader.  I learned this the hard way, and I made so many communication errors in my first leadership experience.  Be clear, be succinct, and be honest with all communications.
  3.  Integrity – This is one of the core Army values, and I believe it is one of the most critical skills a leader must possess.  A leader is constantly under the microscope.  Team members will consistently ask themselves, “Does he do what he says?”  Does he follow through with commitments?”  “Does he tell the truth?”  If any of these questions yields a no answer, the leader and team are going to encounter challenges.
  4.  Be a life-long learner.  This is especially important in education, but I think every good leader must be willing and open to learning new things.  Every scenario and decision offers an amazing learning opportunity that should not be missed.  Listen to your team members and grow from their own wisdom.
  5. Vision – A strong vision guides everyone within the team to a common goal.  The leader must be able to clearly communicate his vision and provide a solid rationale for following the vision.

There are so many characteristics of leaders, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list. Through my own leadership experiences, these traits are the ones that team members seemed to desire more than any other in me as their leader.  I failed many times as a leader, but I also learned so much.

Never stop learning.  Until next time, let’s be stewards of ALL learners.

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