Maxwell defines leadership this way: “Leadership is influence.” Today someone at the meeting I was attending gave us this quote, “We rise when we lift others.” Such powerful yet simple thoughts, and the two thoughts are deeply interrelated. This fact has been drawn home to me in two email responses I received from my staff today.
I recently sent a simple email of thanks to our Secondary Chaplain for organizing and seeing through one of the best Year 12 led Weeks of Worship I have ever experienced. Today he replied: “I wanted to say thank you for the email you sent regarding Week of Worship. In my 8 years here, I have never received an email honouring the work and effort that has gone in to Week of Worship such as the one you sent.”
This morning I sent an email to the Head of Secondary thanking him for his well-written email to the staff about a challenging student, and for the fact that I could relax knowing I had such competent Heads of School to care for things in my absence.
He replied with: “Bless you, David. You have no idea how much that means.”
Two very short emails, yet they evoked a strong response of appreciation. I wonder if we realise how much influence we have as leaders, and how easy it is to lift others up.
The big focus for me this year is to find ways to lift others up. One’s influence as a leader is not measured by one’s dominance or control, but rather by one’s inspirational approach. Jesus modelled Servant Leadership. His influence was pervasive and persuasive, yet gentle and wooing.
This is shown in how we treat our staff. Do we have an “others focus?” Do our staff feel that we value them? What examples could they cite of us lifting others up? If we want a culture of teamwork, collaboration, and genuine Christian care, we need to show that as leaders first.
Building trust and respect within a staff is a long-term process. Losing it can be overnight. That trust and respect is something I am working to develop in my school. It can never be demanded or coerced. It is only earnt by setting an example of being respectful and vulnerable and trusting.
Lifting others up is not about concentrating on your influence. Your influence is either for good or bad, never neutral, but if you lift others up, then as a direct correlation, your influence will be positive. Thus your communication needs to lift others up. The comments you make about others need to lift the person up. The way you couch your newsletters needs to be others focused. The everyday school routines need to reflect to your staff that they are important, valued and appreciated.
There is so much here that I can do in my own school. My prayer is that we will take this and apply it in our own setting and then watch God’s influence at work in our schools.
Article written and posted in Australian English.