Though they might not have an obvious leadership position, teachers can still find meaningful ways to lead without authority.
Within the classroom, teachers serve as the leaders of their students, guiding them through lessons, relaying concepts, and helping to navigate through the difficult transition from childhood to young adulthood. When teachers want the best for the students who look to them for guidance, but are held back by bureaucracy, trying to lead without authority in the school district can be frustrating. Teachers can accomplish great progress to benefit students, but first, educators must cultivate and nurture relationships with each other. Through changing behavior to become a more compassionate, considerate colleague, teachers can learn to lead without authority for the benefit of students and faculty.
1. Become an Ally and Advocate
Unfortunately, many teachers who have good ideas or solutions to a problem don’t always voice their thoughts to superiors. Lead without authority through becoming a voice for the voiceless by aligning with teachers whose ideas can improve the lives of fellow educators and students. Recruit other colleagues to support these efforts and develop a plan to put them into motion.
2. See Something Good, Say Something Great
Teachers tend to be selfless, which is admirable, but that tendency also leads to educators not receiving the credit they deserve. If a colleague performs good deeds, reaches breakthroughs with students, or accomplishes a goal, ensure that they receive recognition. Shining a light on the accomplishments of fellow teachers will inspire other faculty members — and students — to accomplish great things.
3. Lend an Active Ear
In a world where automation is growing and socialization occurs through social media, the dynamics of human interaction have changed. With this shift, the ways in which people communicate with each other have become less personal. Start reversing this trend by serving as a confidant for other teachers and administrators. Through listening intently, responding with understanding, and building relationships, teachers can lead without authority and promote harmony within the workplace.
4. Leading with Empathy
Great leadership skills include the ability to see all sides of every story. Remaining empathetic to the situations of colleagues allows teachers to promote an atmosphere of understanding among the faculty. If a colleague exhibits a poor attitude or seems withdrawn, try to envision a situation he or she might be experiencing to cause this behavior. Attempt to engage the coworker and listen intently, but don’t force the issue if he or she doesn’t wish to discuss. Even if you don’t know the specific issues someone is navigating, you can be empathetic about their behavior by reflecting on a time you were withdrawn or doubted yourself as an educator. Then think about what changed your attitude and got you excited about teaching again. Perhaps sharing those experiences with your colleague or reminding them that they are appreciated can help them.
5. Say It, but Only If You Mean It
None of these tactics to lead without authority will work if they’re expressed through words, but no action. When putting forth these initiatives to promote a more cohesive work environment and engaged faculty, teachers must remain committed to build momentum toward growth with their colleagues in authentic ways.
There exist many ways to engage fellow educators, school administration, and district leaders, but the foundation of progress must be laid through collaboration and constructive discussion. Setting an example regarding how to lead without authority allows teachers to earn a reputation as strong, yet compassionate, leaders.