I have recently read “Strengths Based Leadership” and also took the Clifton Strength Finder Assessment. After discovering my top 5 strengths and reading about how to lead with these strengths, as well as work with others to fulfill their needs, I feel more prepared to carry out my current professional duties.
Professional Leadership Activities
While I have taken on various leadership roles at the American International School of Guangzhou (AISG), including Specialist Team Leader, Faculty Representative to the School Board, Member of the Search Committee for School Director, and a Member on the Search Committee for Elementary Assistant Principal, it wasn’t until 2013 that leadership with my colleagues has played a part in my daily tasks. When I began working in the ICT Facilitator role, it was a totally different job with little to no chances to take a leadership role. However, over the years, I have helped to implement changes in my job title, description and duties, morphing my position from one of merely teaching children how to use technology, to coaching teachers on how to authentically use technology in their classroom. This position requires me to build positive relationships with the people I am working with. Here is where the leadership theories, skills and strengths I have recently learned about can make an impact on technology integration efforts.
According to the StrengthsFinder Assessment, my top five leadership themes are belief, input, learner, responsibility and communication. Below I will describe each strength, analyze my current professional leadership activities as it pertains to each strength and reflect on how it relates to my professional practice. I will also look at participative leadership theory as it pertains to each theme and how it relates to my current professional role.
Rath & Conchie, 2008 describe a leader with the belief theme as someone who has a definite set of unchanging central standards or ethics (Rath & Conchie, 2008). These values are not necessarily religious specific but more related to how you serve others and do things for the betterment of an individual or group (Rath & Conchie, 2008). It is this ethical behavior and integrity which helps to build trust (Rath & Conchie, 2008). Open and honest discussions about your beliefs as well as the beliefs of others you lead, can help to connect the team (Rath & Conchie, 2008). Stability is formed because of the steadfastness of your convictions (Rath & Conchie, 2008). The direction provided by these beliefs, will help others you lead to develop a purpose as well (Rath & Conchie, 2008).
I immediately connected with this theme as I have always held to my convictions even in the presence of peer pressure. My code of ethics is strong and my beliefs guide my decision making process, provide meaning to my life and supporting me when life gets tough. This theme connects to my current role because my desire to contribute to the betterment of humanity can be directly related to training teachers to make authentic use of technology to improve learning for their students. Because of the nature of my own beliefs that more heads are better than one, (a conviction based on my belief that all things should be solved through consultation) as well as my “input” theme, the idea that everyone involved should have a say is also a big aspect of my style of planning for the integration process. This is related directly to the participative leadership theory which also states that everyone should have an input. Participative leadership is defined by Clark D.E. (2013) “A style of leadership in which the leader involves one or more employees in determining what to do and how to do it.” (Clark, 2013). My strength of belief is supported by the participative leadership theory because my belief system supports consultation as a mechanism for solving problems.
Rath & Conchie, 2008 describe a leader with the input theme as someone who continually desires to understand new things (Rath & Conchie, 2008). This individual can build trust with the people they lead by giving useful information and ensuring the accuracy of the information they share (Rath & Conchie, 2008). The innate resourcefulness of this individual will naturally attract others especially if their questions are answered (Rath & Conchie, 2008). Stability in the team is built upon your conscientious efforts towards doing the best you can (Rath & Conchie, 2008).
This theme is what makes me the perfect candidate for the position I am currently in. I have to constantly learn new things such as new applications, software, trends and issues in the use of technology in the learning environment. I am constantly keeping watch on the consumer electronic trends and the uses of new tools in schools. I stay abreast of this information mainly through my own personal learning network. This allows me to know what is the current trend and therefore gives direction to more authentic uses of technology. When I am presented with a new app I delve into it to discover how it will best work for the teachers I assist. While I learn new things all the time it is the participative leadership theory as mentioned above which directs how the new information is actually used. All technology integration efforts are a collaborative effort between myself and the classroom teachers. We meet regularly to discuss and design an authentic use of technology based on the learning outcomes for a particular lesson or unit.
Rath & Conchie, 2008 describe a leader with the learner theme as someone who is motivated by the process of learning and regularly learns in order to improve themselves (Rath & Conchie, 2008). Being able to participate in the learning process with others on the team and admit when you don’t know something will help to build trust (Rath & Conchie, 2008). Learning together as well as acknowledging achievements helps to build connections with those they lead (Rath & Conchie, 2008). Time spent patiently caring about other people’s growth will assist in creating a strong stable team (Rath & Conchie, 2008).
Again another theme that allows me to continually stay on top of things in a field that is constantly changing. When I took over the position of ICT Facilitator we had one lab of twenty four Dell desktops and four trolleys of HP laptops. In the three and a half years I have been on the job we have moved from this set up to no lab, 2;1 iPads from grade Pre K to grade 3, 1:1 iPad in grade 4, 1:1 Macbooks in grade 5, 1 trolley of Macbooks, and three trolleys of eleven iPads. Before moving to Apple devices, I had never touched an Apple device. The learner in me made certain that I had a grasp on the new environment. I have also been given more responsibility in training my colleagues. This has allowed me to spend a great deal of time designing professional development that is not only informative but interesting and motivating as well. This theme isn’t directly related to the ideas presented in participative leadership as most of the time I learn on my own and create training for my colleagues without much input from others. However, when I have a chance to discuss my thoughts about the direction the PD should take, I enjoy it much better.
Rath & Conchie, 2008 describe a leader with the responsibility theme as someone who is honest, loyal and reliable for keeping their word (Rath & Conchie, 2008). Being able to focus more on what is right in the team and allowing others the chance to fix things that might be morally questionable will help to build trust (Rath & Conchie, 2008). Being interested in others, checking up on them, as well as owning up to your mistakes and apologizing, helps to build compassion (Rath & Conchie, 2008). Dependable responsibility and an inclination to serve others can support a stable team (Rath & Conchie, 2008).
This theme is something I rely on, on a daily basis. Whenever I make a mistake, I instantly feel the need to go and apologize and do my utmost to remedy the situation. My administrators know they can rely on me. They know I will keep my word and reach deadlines. Rarely do they check on my progress as they know I will get the job done. Teachers also ask me to research things for them, such as how they can accomplish a certain task they used to do on their computer, on their iPad. This makes me feel happy and it is something I do with pleasure. Whatever I do, it is done to my best ability. Rarely do I do things haphazardly. When I say I will do something, I mean it and follow through. I also feel that I have the responsibility to get input from everyone involved. This is directly related to participative leadership and allows me to ensure greater buy in to the changes I am suggesting.
Rath & Conchie, 2008 describe a leader with the communication theme as someone who communicates well, in written form, while presenting and during conversation (Rath & Conchie, 2008). Making sure to stay “real” by speaking of others in identical ways, whether they are around or not, will help build trust (Rath & Conchie, 2008). Making sure to fully understand others problems and then communicating them clearly to the team will help to build connections (Rath & Conchie, 2008). Making people feel that mistakes are okay and that the “big picture” (Rath & Conchie, 2008 p.132) is the focus, helps to build more confident teams.
This theme is another theme that fits my personality well. I am constantly giving praise to teachers the try new approaches to teaching. I offer support and advice in a light hearted fashion which makes others happier and in turn pleases me. The beliefs which guide my decisions are the same ones that allow me to speak of others the exact same way that I would if they were in the room. I use my ability to write informative pieces about the integration happening at our school to contribute to a digital initiatives blog. I give informative presentations to parents about various tech related topics and PD workshops to teachers. The communicator in me ensures these presentations are lively and well received. Participative leadership requires that the leader has a good handle on communication so that they can present the problems well enough to get useful feedback from other team members. When I am in the planning process with teachers, to plan how to best use technology, everyones input is deemed necessary as well as important. When issues arise the communicator in me helps to clarify the problem so others can contribute to the solution.
Goals for Leadership
While my strengths might already assist me in the leadership roles I am currently involved in, my position as a technology coach requires that I build relationships with those I work with. As I have no themes under the Relationship Building domain, It is this area where growth is needed. I have already taken courses in being a better coach and have watched videos and read articles regarding the art of coaching, but also know for real effectiveness I need to work on building skills in the relationship building domain. I realize that the idea of strength based leadership relies on using your strengths to lead and this will work for some instances, but since I am the only technology coach in my division it is hard for me to rely on another person to help me build relationships with those I work with. The two themes which assist me in creating relationships for now are belief and communication. Belief guides my decisions and ensures that I am ethical and involve others in the decision making process. Communication allows me to communicate effectively to others so that there are no misunderstandings, which ensures everyone is heard and understood. I also know that my participative nature allows for everyone to be involved on a collaborative process of growth and learning. By focusing on my strengths I know with time, the relationship building area will also develop. While I will never try to be everything, improvement is always the road I will take in all that I do.
Clark, D. R. (2013, May 4). Glossary of leadership definitions: A reference for defining leadership terms. Retrieved January 24, 2014, from http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/leaddef.html
Rath, T., & Conchie, B. (2008). Strengths based leadership: great leaders, teams, and why people follow. New York: Gallup Press.
Gallup®, Clifton StrengthsFinder®, StrengthsFinder®, and the 34 Clifton StrengthsFinder® theme names are trademarks of Gallup, Inc. Gallup has not granted authority or certified any external consultants to interpret Clifton StrengthsFinder® or any of the Clifton StrengthsFinder® themes. Any interpretation by anyone other than Gallup may be inconsistent and incorrect.