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Managing / Leadership Styles in Education

Oh, the title can be so misleading. There is such a big difference between management style and leadership style.

What is your definition of a manager vs a leader? A quick Google search of “manager vs leader” will give you about 957 Million articles to read – and there is always a lot of debate on the topic.

I started out in Business Administration before moving to Business Education. The term “manager” was used frequently and for many years I thought “manager” and “leader” were pretty much the same thing.

Wow, was I wrong!

The further I progressed in my educational and professional career and the more I worked with a wide variety of people in ‘leadership’ roles at schools, companies, state agencies, etc. it became clear who was leading and who was managing.

From my perspective, a manager is someone that knows the procedures, policies, and playbook to get there. They follow the plan and help guide their team toward the end goal. Their employees work for them and follow the directions that have been established.

A leader on the other hand helps the team define the end goal (or may even create a new end goal along the way) and finds ways to motivate the team to buy-in, contribute, and follow-through to achieve that end goal together. The employees don’t work for leaders, they work WITH them.

What type of leader can get the team to collaborate and buy-in? What leader is capable of being the team captain and holding everyone  accountable… but giving them the space to test their limits and probe for new possibilities (and sometimes fail in the process)  . . . for the good of the team?

There is no one answer here. There are lots of different personality types, with different experience bases, different educational backgrounds, and lots of different approaches to leadership. You must find the leadership style that fits you, and work to embrace elements of other approaches to grow as a leader.

Servant leaders are probably the most talked about in the education field. In a blog post by Dr. Whitlock, she talks about a servant leader being focused on people, their needs, and their aspirations. There’s also a great  infographic that lays out the impact a servant leader can have on a school.

An additional leadership style that I think can be very beneficial and complement the servant leadership style is that of a transformational leader. In an article posted on St. Thomas University site, it talks about the definition of a transformational leader being one that “possesses a single-minded need to streamline or change things that no longer work.”

Which of these approaches is most in-line with you? Whether you’re in management or administration or not – you can still be a leader… sometimes the most effective leaders lead not from the top, but from within. Take some time today to identify and grow your leadership style to move beyond being a manager – its the best way to empower yourself to be the change you want to see in the world.

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