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A Leader Teaches

A Leader Teaches

by Sy OgulnickMay 2015

Leaders Teach, whether aware or not and are Role Models whether aware or not:


A leader is a teacher is as sure a thing as night following day. The influence of the leader, their position of power, makes this a fundamental truth. The problem is that most leaders do not accept this role as primary, but secondary at best, and at worst do not see themselves as teachers, but as visionaries, and problem solvers.


The problem is so important because the obvious to everyone else is denied or poorly understood by the one in power, the leader. The story of the king that wears no clothes tells us about the leadership of this king. He believes he is eloquently dressed because he is told this by those closest to him. What has this leader/king taught, and teaches his immediate and most important followers? Please me, tell me what I want to hear, agree with me. Do my biding. His student/followers are not blind, deaf and dumb, but smart enough to know how and why their bread is buttered. And so, the differences, the talent, and life experiences that each brings to the table are set aside in deference to what the person in power teaches.


What a leader wants, depending on the circumstances, the leader usually gets from those close to them. The question needs to be asked, what is it that they get? Not everyone is willing to work or live in an environment that lacks respect, nurturing, and is not safe for them to be. People that have reasonable self esteem depart from relationships and environments that abuse them. Are the multitudes that remain in dysfunctional environments led by an out-of-touch leader committed to the betterment of the organization or are they in survival mode?


The point is that leaders, whether king, parent, boss, or supervisor teaches by their behavior. Behavior is noted by what one says, does, and plays out. Leaders/teachers are center stage, and hold immense influence over those who are immediate to them, and in a trickle down sense, have considerable influence over others even layers below. As mentioned in one of my previous papers, the trickle down theory of economics may or may not be fact, but the influence of those in power is irrefutable.


If teaching and being a role model are corner stone’s of leadership then leaders must become better teachers and aware of themselves as “role models” if they seriously desire achieving their goals with and through others. Also, every true student seeks the teacher. So when the good and enlightened leader/teacher/role model meets the committed student there you have a meeting of minds and hearts. Under these conditions not only is reciprocal growth assured, but so is the growing of quality leaders.


 How does a leader/teacher go about creating a “safe enough” learning environment?


  1. Be vulnerable to the student(s). Talk about yourself. Show feelings, tell your stories.
  2. Have each of the students tell what they will of their own stories.
  3. Be a good listener.
  4. Confirm what you hear and understand.
  5.  Ask questions; be caring, sensitive, to where each is at.
  6. Be liberal with your resources including the time they need with you.
  7. Never act as if you are there for them. Be there for them. Be present! Present! Present!
  8. Create the space that reflects “who” you are, not “what” you do.
  9. As leader/teacher you are the most responsible and accountable.
  10. Hold your students/employees to the same standards.
  11. Acknowledge the good and growth that a student/worker goes through.
  12. Show that you are also a student and allow the student to lead/teach when events dictate.
  13. Free yourself from having to be the leader/teacher all of the time. Allow events to dictate.
  14. Discover yourself through the eyes, ears and words of others.
  15. Reward students not as a form of manipulation, but because the reward is clearly earned.


 People want to grow, to do the right thing, to contribute, to be acknowledged. Only the truly damaged close themselves off from the “safe enough” environment. The problem and challenge to the enlightened leader/teacher is to accept that what is safe enough to one is not necessarily safe enough to the other.  And why it is essential to always relate to the “one.” When anyone speaks of “they, them and others” as if the same, these are convenient labels not a truth. Only the “I” in each is.


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