Leaders & Introverts: Supporting Our Team Members

Today, I learned about staff morale and planning with our best people in mind from Todd Whitaker, and the power of introverted people from Susan Cain. (You can also view her TED Talk here.) Both messages are critical to our work as principals, which got me thinking about how these two ideas intersect.

I think back to a conversation I had with a great teacher in my building. We talked about the wonderful things happening in her classroom and how she was furthering her own learning to better support her students. I shared that I would love to see her pursue more leadership opportunities in our school. Knowing her, she is not one to seek attention or impose her opinion on others. Looking back, I would expect her to identify herself as an introvert.

So what did I mean when I urged her to be a "leader?" I really meant that I wanted her to share. I want others to know what she's doing well and see strategies that could ultimately help them serve their own students better. Thinking of our best people means thinking of what they needthough, not just what we need from them or what we think "good for them" looks like. In her presentation, Cain wondered aloud, "How can we consider the individual learning styles of students and not do the same for our teachers?" We can be leaders in different ways, and we have the power to spread that message.

In some ways, I think this goes back to Whitaker’s message about sharing expectations versus correcting behaviors. Instead of just telling her I want to see her as a leader by the year’s end, I can use what I’ve learned about introverts and extroverts. At that first, important faculty meeting, I can empower my teachers by sharing what teacher leadership can look like.

How do you define leadership in your school community? How do you honor your best people in doing so? In what other situations do you need to rethink the power of introverts as school leaders? I’d love to learn more!

Kathy Melton

Melton is blogging from the 2014 Annual Conference in Nashville. Read her other posts, and see updates from Nashville, on 2014 Conference News.