An Ode To Not Being A Leader…Or A Follower

Why Do You Need to Be A Leader?

not a leaderOh wait…you don’t!

One of the most overused terms in education today is the word LEADER. When you think about leaders in your schools who are they? How many of them hold system wide titles of LEADER?

-instructional leaders

-student leaders

-administrative leaders

-curriculum leaders

-lead learners

My experience is that some of the people in the education system who are labelled as leaders are not really leaders at all. Rather they fill a role of disseminating information and top down educational pedagogy to the masses (teachers) in an effort to create a homogenized system. For some educators, this is rich nourishment for the teaching soul which provides direction on how to best teach their students. If you happen to be a member of this particular group I think that is great. So long as you objectively question what best practices are being shared and adopt only those that will best serve your students.

There is however another group of educators out there (of which I am a member) who find the number of ‘leaders’ identified in our system and the expectation that everyone should be a leader to be somewhat problematic. My concerns are 3 fold:

1) Most leaders are not selected by their peers and often do not reflect the experiences and identified areas of need deemed important by many educators. This results in people being placed in ‘leadership positions’ who are not truly leaders of the people they have been selected to lead.

2) The pressure being placed on teachers and students alike to ‘be a leader’ (in the educational mold) is counter productive. There are many like myself who are not interested in being what the system deems as being a leader and does not feel comfortable placing those expectations on students. Susan Cain’s  book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, discusses how society has placed negative labels on introverts and artificially elevated the importance of being an extrovert. I have many students over the years who have crumbled under the pressure of being bullied into being what they are not, in the attempt to make them fit the current narrow definition of a leader. 

3) It is OK not to want to be a leader…or a follower! Using Twitter, PLC’s, interaction with colleagues and engaging students voice, I am able to work collaboratively with the world around me without the power based (inconsequential) label of leader.

I do not want to be led by others and I am not interested in being an institutional leader. Rather I want my students and I to learn to make personal connections with anyone and everyone who can help us accomplish all of the things we wish to accomplish. I have no time or energy for labels, succession plans, hierarchies etc.

In the end, I just want to work with anyone who can help me achieve my goals, help my students achieve their goals and assist anyone who can use our help or expertise.

So please, when you come to my classroom, check your ‘leader’ label at the door. We are all working, learning and sharing our talents which each other.


If you have any comments I would love to hear them.


1 Comment

  1. I am struck by the thought that if everyone was a leader, there’d be no one left to follow them. I have found myself far more impacted by the words and actions of my plain, old, non-labelled colleagues. There is a place for official and formal ‘leadership’ in education, if by leader we mean ‘manager’. To inspire (whether students or staff) one need only have conviction, integrity, and a benevolent approach. Thanks for this post. It’s great

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