What exactly IS leadership?

Is the term leadership a euphemism? If so, for\nwhat?


\n

Since about half of America is holding a primary or a caucus today, that\nquestion seemed relevant. I'm not sure most people know what leadership\nis.

\n

I've been listening to what the presidential candidates are saying about\nthemselves and each other over the past few weeks. One of the most interesting\ndiscussions is between John McCain and Mitt Romney over the question of which of\nthem is more qualified to be president. Romney, in a nutshell, says McCain lacks\nsome important basic skills. Romney says that his own Harvard MBA, his business\nresume and his executive experience as a state governor give him the theoretical\nbackground knowledge and the experience needed to fix our government and\neconomy. John McCain's response, basically, is that he doesn't think Romney was\nthat great a governor, and that he can hire someone with a Harvard MBA and some\nbusiness experience to work for him when he becomes president. McCain says that\nRomney's background makes him a manager in a country that needs\nleaders. And (surprise) McCain, of course, thinks of\nhimself as that leader.

\n

Whether you agree with either of them, the discussion provides some\ncontrasting images of just what might constitute leadership. I think that one of\nour problems in education (or in America, for that matter) is that we're not\nsure what leadership is. The fact that two men who both want to be president are\nhaving this discussion seems to indicate that even our leaders don't know\nclearly what leadership is – or at least they don't agree on what it is.\n

\n

I think one of the problems is that leadership, whatever that is, is usually\nonly one component of most administrative jobs. School administrators do have to\nmanage. They also do have to remain educators. As basic as that sounds,\nI've met principals who didn't think it was their job to be an educator anymore.\nThey didn't think they were obligated to keep up with the research or changes in\nbest practices. They thought their job was to manage and that the\nschool had other people who were responsible for all that educational stuff.\nHeck, they'd become a principal partly because they didn't really like education\nvery much!

\n

The corollary to this is simple, but also often overlooked. You don't have to\nbe an administrator to be a leader. In almost every educational environment I've\never been in, some of the most effective leaders weren't administrators; they\nwere just committed educators whose character and values required them to lead.\n

\n

I can't articulate a definition of leadership that satisfies me. I know what\nit isn't. I know it overlaps with many things. But I'm still looking for a\ncrystalline definition. I worry sometimes that because the idea is difficult to\ndefine, people will think it is a euphemism for administration and thus miss the\nreal nature of leadership.

\n

I do know that I don't have to be an administrator to be a leader.\n

\n

Greg Cruey, Guest Blogger

\n
Big Think
Sponsored by Lumina Foundation

Upvote/downvote each of the videos below!

As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.

Keep reading Show less

Scientists figure out how to trap dark matter

A new method promises to capture an elusive dark world particle.

Surprising Science
  • Scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) devised a method for trapping dark matter particles.
  • Dark matter is estimated to take up 26.8% of all matter in the Universe.
  • The researchers will be able to try their approach in 2021, when the LHC goes back online.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less
Videos
  • As a stand-up comedian, Pete Holmes knows how words can manipulate audiences — for good and bad.
  • Words aren't just words. They stich together our social fabric, helping establish and maintain relationships.
  • Holmes has a clever linguistic exercise meant to bring you closer to the people around you.