27 August 2012

Why I'd Rather be a Leader than a Boss

Having the last name Boss brings a fair share of name jokes about who’s the boss.  I take it all in stride because it just comes with the name, but when it comes to thinking about what a boss does and what a leader does, I’d rather be considered a leader than a boss.
Today was my last day with the state department of education, and when I blogged about my final thoughts of working at the DOE, I neglected to reference my most recent work as the academic core branch manager.   It was not a complete oversight nor did I plan not to mention it; I just wasn’t ready to put my thoughts about that experience in writing.  The people in this incredible branch are well-rounded, intelligent, and hardworking individuals, and I am thankful for the opportunity to work with them and to learn from them over the past year.  My knowledge of standards, instruction, and assessment for mathematics, social studies, science, world language, and arts & humanities increased enormously because of conversations, shared readings, and shared experiences. 

Our vision for the academic core was that we become a cohesive unit, working across disciplines on projects and models that would help educators in the field see the same possibilities.  We made progress on this work, but still had room to grow, and I hope my colleagues will carry on with this vision so examples of best practice for integrated learning can be shared with teachers in the field and students can experience learning in more authentic and engaging ways.

Tonight as I reflect on the day and the gifts bestowed upon me by the members of our branch, I am thinking about what a privilege it was to serve as the leader.  I specifically mention leader here, not boss, because I think I’m better at being a leader than I am at being a boss.  I’m capable of and have done both (in this job and in jobs while I was in college), but I am most happy when I’m the visionary, encourager, learner, and colleague, not when I’m the task master approving leave, signing paperwork, and conducting performance evaluations.   It’s not that I mind doing those things and they came with my job, but it’s just not what I prefer.  When you work in middle management for state government, you’re more a task master just because of the bureaucratic nature of the system.
Lest this post become a negative diatribe about bureaucracies, let me share some of the reasons I see myself as a leader and not a boss.   

·          Leaders see colleagues as professionals

·         Leaders establish a team approach with everyone working alongside one another

·         Leaders admit mistakes and admit to not knowing everything

·         Leaders listen first and talk last

·         Leaders give advice rather than offer criticism

·         Leaders earn respect by giving respect

·         Leaders are teachers not assignment givers
I worked with other leaders who were also former teachers.  Any one of my colleagues could have served as our branch manager because they are all leaders and they all have my utmost respect.