Thursday, June 16, 2016

When Strong Leadership Takes Advantage of Others and Setting Aside Our Ambitions

"We push for a strong leader to get us out of this mess, even if it means surrendering individual freedom to gain security." Margaret Wheatley,  Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time
When things are rough and uncertain, as Wheatley points out, people look for a strong leader. For many, any old "strong" leader will do. The individual talking the loudest and making the most promises, impossible or not, will do. The individual no one really likes, but because he demonstrates toughness, will do. Finally, the individual with the largest ego and a plan, even though it's clear it won't work, will do.

Whether it is our world, our communities, or our schools, when uncertainty and messiness rears its head, the search for a "strong" leader is common. And, if one appears, people are willing to sacrifice their own freedoms and creativity in order to avoid the messiness and uncertainty and obtain security. The flip side of this is the danger many school leaders face: that of becoming one of these leaders who preys on the fears and insecurities of others in pursuit of one's own ambitions. Thinking that one has all the right answers, and the plan, with emphasis on the "the," is perhaps more about egos than authentically leading others.

In times of messiness and uncertainty, leadership should embrace others as co-creators in finding solutions, not strong-arm them into accepting less freedom. This means not yelling the loudest, not offering plans that betray who we are internally, and not deceiving ourselves into believing that we're the answer to all people's problems. Ethically, offering authentic, wise, and compassionate leadership to those who are insecure is what is needed most in these times of uncertainty and insecurity. It is time to set aside our own ambitions and remember it is not always about us.

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