Everyone is a leader: the four-year-old in a play group, the adolescent at school, the teacher in the classroom, the politician on the stump, the quarterback on the gridiron, the orchestra conductor with bâton poised and the section first chair, the consultant in the office. Our actions and decisions have the power to influence others, for the better or for the worse. In that they reflect our values and character to the world, those actions and decisions are the foundation of leadership.
Given that all of us lead through actions, then, it is critical that those actions match the values we preach through word and deed. So, for example, if I expect my French Immersion students to speak French at all times in class to me and to each other, I need to do the same with my French-speaking colleagues in the school, whether there are students present or not, or when I attend meetings, sessions, or conferences where French is the language of facilitation. In the same way, the dress code in the school applies to me as much as to students. Otherwise, I am guilty of a double standard.
My responsibility extends beyond the classroom and the school to activities outside school hours where I still wear my teacher hat and represent the profession. Should I be participating in a teachers' hockey tournament, could I agree to a team name that masks profanity, a name like “Falcon Awesome”, for example, given the very good chance that a name with similar lewd connotations would not be allowed to designate a team in a school-sponsored context? As an educator, whenever I expect behavior from students to which I myself do not adhere, I lose credibility. My actions do not match my talk. I abdicate my responsibility as a leader.
We are leaders because we are people. No matter our age, state of life, or line of work, we must strive to align our words, our practice, and our values. Any less is not worthy of us as human beings.
To remind myself of the goal, and to express my conviction in another form, I have reposted a poem (Mis/Alignment) I wrote on the subject, added to this blog for a short time, and then removed for reasons that seem quite cowardly now. Alignment requires discipline, mindfulness, and courage. We can’t lead without it.