What does it take to be a highly effective leader? Confidence, integrity and action immediately come to mind. But according to Shraddha Nunziata, Citizen Schools’ Campus Director of Renaissance School of the Arts in East Harlem, New York, it doesn't stop there. She shares her journey of discovering why a "personal leadership brand" is another important component in building leadership. When I switched from teaching into campus leadership, my organization, Citizen Schools, invested in my professional development. I learned so much about myself as a leader, skills that I could have leveraged in the classroom had I learned them earlier. One powerful workshop I attended was, “Leadership Styles: Developing the Personal Leader,” facilitated by IBM. IBM performs philanthropy through sharing knowledge and expertise. In lieu of monetary donations, IBM conducts workshops for a range of groups on a wide variety of topics.
I found the IBM leadership workshop particularly compelling because I started the workshop by providing my goals for the session, and I left with a clear plan for myself and my team. The expertise of the presenters, the mix of attendees, and the combination of personalities, meant people were eager to contribute, honestly expressed their opinions, and shared insights into personal leadership development as well as the climate of our organization as a whole.
Having a leadership brand is a basic requirement, but as a teacher-turned-leader, this idea is a life-changing concept. The highly effective leaders around me all have their leadership brands. My principal’s is “get to the point and always say yes”. My assistant principal’s is “confidence is key”. What is mine? My brand should drive my work as a leader; my roles and responsibilities should stem from my brand. For example, my brand is “cultivating openness through personal honesty”. It’s still a work in progress, but I know I am an open book and my honesty and openness makes others feel comfortable.
The bulk of my work as a leader should stem from this mantra, so my time should be spent in coaching conversations with my teachers, leading trainings on classroom management, and delegating tasks based on my team members’ personal strengths. I need to eliminate mundane, but surprisingly enjoyable, spreadsheet-based tasks and empower other team members to develop in those areas. To execute on my brand, I should spend the bulk of my time building relationships, fostering vulnerability, and coaching others to reflect on their practice and grow as teachers.
The facilitators of the IBM workshop based most of their key points on the Daniel Goleman article, “Leadership that Gets Results” from the Harvard Business Review. It has a great layout of six leadership styles and their impact on team/organizational climate. The results were surprising: an authoritative leadership style has the most positive effects on climate, followed closely by an affiliative and democratic styles. I had the personal realization that I can make my natural inclination toward affiliative and democratic styles work for me by being more authoritative: establishing a clear vision and empowering others to join me in executing the vision.
My hope is that people who are transitioning into new roles, particularly from teaching, know what’s out there for them in terms of professional leadership development. For any career changer or career advancer, building self-awareness in the context of working with others is key to making an impact. If you, the professional, can identify your strengths and your personal brand, it’s easier to adapt to any environment, flex communication styles, and create a climate that gets results. If you aren’t lucky enough to have the opportunity to participate in an IBM workshop, read the Goleman article for a great primer.