Why do certain people stand out?

A number of times in the last day and a half we have been asked  to reflect on those people who we look at as leadership mentors and the qualities that they possess. This has led me to starting thinking about two things: 1. what does "what stands out to me in a leader" mean and 2. there are many people I look up as leaders, but nothing about their leadership is standing out to me. 

  1. A few specific moments have come to mind for me during this week when we have been asked about who we look up to. A few qualities that I have noted that have stood out to me are honesty/integrity (even to the point of brutal honesty), trust in those who work under them, and at least the outward appearance of calm, poise and unflappability. While I value honesty and strive to be honest, what I have been coming to realize what I valued most about my brutally honest US history teacher was the balance of honesty, expectation, and integrity, and in all of that, he softened the sting of blunt correction with humor and equally honest praise. He had high expectations, told you when you weren’t reaching them, and told you when you were. The trust in allowing people to do what you ask them strikes me in many ways as something we do as teachers all the time. We give our students tasks, assignments, etc. and expect that they complete them. Do we help, guide, and structure? Of course. Do we work with different students differently? Of course. But do we sit there and write the paper for them? I certainly hope not. We ask students to do their jobs. Similarly, as leaders, it is ok and good to ask our colleagues to do their jobs and trust that they will do them. Finally, poise, unflappability. I think it is amazing to watch people who are really calm in the face of major challenges. I find it reassuring and I think that it becomes hard to follow someone who can’t at least appear calm is difficult moments. For me I think these are a some qualities that I see that I can work on. Striving for the balance in the honesty and working to give equal voice to positive honesty. Remembering that honesty needs to be tempered with clear expectation and high integrity. Trusting that others will do what needs to be done. Staying calm, outwardly. But in staying calm, staying open (which is counter to my natural inclinations.)
  2. As we have been asked to think about these questions of leadership, there have been several leaders/mentors in my life who I have thought about, but I have struggled to latch onto qualities about them that make them stand out to me as leaders. What is different about these people, all of whom I look up to a leaders, but only some of whom I can identify specific qualities that I see in their leadership? I have also noticed that all of the people who I have specifically thought about with regards to these qualities have been male. Although I can think of great, strong female examples of these qualities, they are not the first leaders that have come to mind. The Head of School and Assistant Head of School of the high school I attended are two amazing examples of unflappability, they were the follow-up examples to my realization that I valued unflappability. I have not had enough time to dig into what these two observations about what I am not thinking about mean. Yet. But I think in addition to looking at my blindspots in my leadership style, it will be important to try to use patterns to notice what I am not noticing. 

-Colin