The Problem with Heroic Educational Leaders

Ever since I was young, I have been a fan of action movies that feature heroic leaders rallying the troops and leading them to victory, whether literally or figuratively. When I became an education leader, I sought to pattern my leadership style after the heroic leaders that I had come in contact with throughout my career. I thought that if I did this, there would be no way that I could fail. I quickly saw the problem with being a heroic leader and made adjustments. In this piece, I want to discuss those problems.

The problem

Being a hero leader can leave you with the false belief that you can do things better than anyone else, which stifles the staff’s productivity, creativity and leaves them in a state of dependency. Great education leaders don’t do that. They create a team that is motivated, effective and independent by delegating authority and decision making. They understand that it is not their job to rescue their subordinates, it is their job to help them develop a high sense of self-efficacy, and learn to solve problems by themselves.  

Those who fall into the trap of being the hero leader and rescuing their staff end up stressed and burned out. That’s because they end up completing a lot of tasks that their teachers and support staff should be doing, instead of holding them accountable. They seem to forget that is their job is to be a leader and help their subordinates think and work autonomously.

The solution

Instead of answering questions or solving problems because you feel compelled to do so, teach your educators how to solve problems for themselves. If you address your staff’s issues for them you teach them to run to you at the first sign of trouble, instead of taking a step back, looking at the problem holistically and then coming up with a solution. You want your employees to be able to leverage their own skills and gifts to find answers and, in the process, build resilience. Use questions and problems to create teachable moments for your staff.

Concluding thoughts

If you want to be an effective educational leader, instead of being the hero, learn how to be a masterful instructional leader, mentor, and coach. Also, master the art of asking useful questions, and use them to help your subordinates learn how to fish, instead of feeding them.

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