Bob Davids stated in his talk on leadership without ego that as a leader “You need to be in touch with the people you lead, and you need to be in their shoes.”
Essentially what Davids was getting at in his talk is that good leaders will climb down down off their perch and get their hands dirty in the trenches when needed. For a leader to have the humility to work alongside those they lead is very powerful message to send when establishing expectations and setting the example for others to follow.
Getting into the trenches and not seeing oneself above the work that we expect others to do on a daily basis can be viewed positive by others in that the leader either knows the job(s) that needs to get done, or they are prepared to lend a hand to move everyone forward. Even if you are not an expert, a willingness to seek to understand is enough to get people on board in terms of where leaders want them to go. This is what leadership without ego is.
The statement from Davids at the end of the talk is, perhaps, more powerful than message given in the first 12 minutes, which is why it is worth drawing attention to it.
Leaders needing to step into the shoes of those they lead, suggests more than getting alongside workers at all levels of the organisation, it suggests trying to see things from the perspective of others. For school leaders, the ability to lead with empathy can make all the difference to improving school culture. When school leaders make decisions or requests, in most cases, time is given to considering and communicating the rationale , which often comes from the leader’s, or leadership team’s perspective. Less time, however, may be given to considering how different stakeholders will be affected by the decision, or instruction, and leader(s) are often surprised when the reaction from those on the receiving end of the decision is less than positive.
By getting in touch with people in all areas of the school, we get a better sense of how people are traveling in terms of what is on everyone’s plate not just from a professional point of view but also a personal one. Being able to sense how people are going to react to a decision, a new policy, or a new initiative, is crucial to successful leadership but it cannot be done without being in touch with the people we lead. Though, successful leadership, is more than than just a conversation with others. To really connect with the people we lead, leaders need to seek to understand them. The more leaders invest in their teachers and support staff by spending time with them, the more in tune they will be when it comes to being able to move our schools forward, knowing exactly when to push and when to hold back.
Richard is currently Secondary School Principal of Suzhou Singapore International School, one of China's leading international schools. He leads workshops across the Asia-Pacific region for the International Baccalaureate in the areas of pedagogical leadership and approaches to teaching and learning. Richard consults with schools on the topics of school improvement and effective implementation and use of technology.
With a background in public and independent school education in the UK and Australia, Richard is enjoying his international school adventure in China. He is passionate about developing and supporting educational leaders, as it is essential to improving all schools.
Richard is a proud family man and feels lucky to be married to Kim and father of their son Austin.
In his spare time Richard enjoys to swim, bike and run and is a now retired football player and coach (with occasional guest appearances)