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A Lesson for All of Us

I think Rita Pierson, a life-long educator got it right…

She said, kids don’t learn from teachers they don’t like.

I think the same is true about leadership.  People won’t follow leaders they don’t respect and they certainly won’t learn from them either which makes it impossible to lead change.

Rita gave a short Ted Talk that I have attached below.   It is a little over 7 minutes long and well worth your time.   Every time she says teacher put in the word leader.  Every time she says kid or child, imagine you or a co-worker.  She paints a compelling picture of our job as teachers and leaders.

Listen when she describes her discussion with a teacher that says it is the teacher’s job to teach the lesson and the kid’s job learn and do the lesson.  Case closed.  It comes at 1:36.  I think the same applies to our job as leaders.

People want to be part of something bigger than themselves.  They want to know they can make a contribution.  They want to know they matter and are respected for what they can contribute regardless of your age.   She says we know why kids drop out.   We also know why people disengage.  Both have to do with the quality of the human connection and relationship.

As leaders, imagine the impact we can have if:

Our people feel like they are somebody when we celebrate the progress and focus on the potential to improve (even when we are disappointed in the results).

It says you can be better – always.

Our messages to the teams we lead is around how we can raise self esteem.  This allows them to strive constantly and consistently to raise the bar.  They gain confidence “say it long enough and it becomes part of you”.   That swagger builds powerful momentum across the organization.

Seek to understand vs be understood. It is not about us but rather about our role to lead and that means being a student of the issues.

Apologizing when we get it wrong or need to make a correction.

I agree with her comments about teaching being hard but not impossible.  I think it applies to the job of a leader too.  Both roles have tremendous power to influence people and their potential.  Let’s make a commitment that beginning today we will be Champions of our People as a lasting tribute to Rita who passed away one year ago on June 28th, 2013.  And because of her inspiration, we will lead in new way that inspires greatness from our people.

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  1. You are so right! And it didn’t take 33 years in the classroom for me to find this out! Kids need to know that they are safe to make mistakes as this is the only way most of them learn. All of us know we are safe when our leaders recognize the success as well as the struggles, as one does not happen without the other. This is a great conversation to have amongst the generations as well as a variety of professions. Best of luck in this new adventure, Nancy.

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