George Couros‘ post There Should Be More Than One “Lead Learner” prompted me to reflect upon what it means to me to be a learner and leader within new contexts. I no longer serve in a formal leadership capacity in a school or district. Believe it or not, I have been missing the craziness that is back to school! Although my current role supporting teacher and administrator professional development in school districts across the US puts me in direct contact with educational leaders on a daily basis, I find myself asking, “how am I going to continue to grow as a leader? How am I going to continue to learn?” These questions become magnified as I hit my last strides working on my dissertation in the Mid-Career Doctoral Program at the University of Pennsylvania.
George’s post provided me a new perspective within the context of these questions. I have always considered myself a leader who learns, one who uses learning as an opportunity to show strength, vulnerability, curiosity, and resolve in any situation. Whether mentoring someone who was growing into a leadership position, re-framing a challenge toward a solution, or interacting with people whose experiences lift me up, I have focused on the learning that is situated in the experience. When I face personal or professional challenges, even those that leave scars, I remind myself that any situation, good or bad, is not for naught if something is learned. So if I am not in a formal leadership position and experiencing all the associated successes and challenges, how do I continue to be a leader who learns?
That is when George’s words “The title does not necessarily make the role, only how you do it” struck a chord with me. Although I may no longer have an official title within a school setting, I do have many titles: Dad, Husband, Son, Friend, Mentor, Colleague, Co-Worker, Boss. Within each of those titles, I have just as much opportunity to be someone who learns. As George states sometimes people in a school setting need a principal to be a decision-maker, there are times when in all of the aforementioned roles I need to make tough decisions. Some popular. Some not so popular. However, if I continue to focus on the idea of being a perpetual learner I will continue to grow as a leader. I see it with my sons– I love being a Dad who learns. There are times I need to have those conversations or make the call that Dad’s don’t like to do; however, if I model for my children that I am always learning through life they may just gain some insight into what leadership means. And I often show them that they are teaching me.
So as I continue to navigate all my formal and informal roles in life, I will consider myself as a leader who learns… and a Dad who learns…and a husband who learns…. Thanks, George, for reminding me that we all need to be that type of “lead learner.”