I have always believed that teaching is leading, and to become a better teacher, one must become a better leader. In my mind, leadership is about 5 things: standards, culture, vision, courage, and communication. In the business world, one man stands out when thinking about excellence, even after his death – Steve Jobs. Jobs was passionate, innovative, and someone who relentlessly pursued insanely great work. He had a zero tolerance policy for mediocrity, average, and settling. Great teachers think the same way. If you want to work toward excellence like Steve Jobs, consider applying these 5 leadership qualities in your classroom.
1. Standards. Steve Jobs had incredibly high standards for Apple, his staff, and the game-changing products he created. His standards of quality, simplicity, and performance were non-negotiable and were a big reason he and Apple achieved – and continues to achieve – unprecedented success. Teachers must also set high standards for their students in order to inspire them to work toward excellence. A hunger to succeed, a willingness to put forth the effort, and the self-discipline needed to be consistent are just some examples of what excellence requires.
2. Culture. Jobs created, developed, and sustained a culture of excellence at Apple – a culture that could be seen, heard, and especially felt. People clamored to work there, and employees understood Apple was different, elite, and special. Teachers must create, develop, and sustain a culture of excellence in their classroom, where students can also see, hear, and feel the values, beliefs, and climate of high performance that exists on a daily basis.
3. Vision. Without question, one of Steve Jobs’ greatest traits was vision – a vision “to turn powerful technology into tools that were easy to use, tools that would help people realize their dreams and change the world for the better.” Today, his vision has been realized through devices that have become part of the fabric of our daily lives. Teachers must also inspire their students with a vision – a vision of achievement, success, graduation, a job interview, or even the career of their dreams. Educators must paint a picture of what is possible and inspire their students to begin with the end in mind and work toward it.
4. Courage. As a leader, Jobs had the courage to make tough decisions. He had the courage to say no, the courage to cut products, and the courage to simplify the complicated. He also had the courage to be honest, the courage to return to the company he was fired from, and the courage to battle cancer. Teachers have to make tough decisions as well, such as holding students accountable for their choices, empowering rather than enabling them, and teaching that grades are earned, not given.
5. Communication. Communication is about how well you speak, how well you listen, and how well you write. Jobs was a master presenter and speaker, inspiring Apple employees at every new product launch. Jobs was exceptional at communicating his standards, culture, vision, and courage to his team – and they rallied around him like Vince Lombardi coaching the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. Teachers too must effectively communicate with their students, connect with them on a personal level, and care about them as people. John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
Sounds like a teacher to me.