“The best teachers are leaders, and the best leaders are also teachers,” says Harvard Business School Professor Thomas DeLong, who has taught over 20,000 MBAs and executives across the globe since 1997. According to him, teachers, as with leaders, “should be like a mad scientist who can’t wait to get to the classroom to share the experiment. If you adopt this mindset, students will remain intellectually and spiritually in the classroom with you.”
With that in mind, as parents are rejoicing their children are returning back to school, here are some leadership lessons they can learn from teachers.
Have the ability to influence.
Leadership ability is often measured in the context of business performance in many organizations, Will Fan, CEO of NewCampus, wries in Forbes. However, there is more to it than just a focus on the bottom line.
“I’ve found it’s actually the ability to inspire individuals with their own agendas and cause others to rally behind a common goal that makes an effective leader,” he adds. “In a single word, it’s influence.” Efficiency gains follow.
“If you think about it, influence is largely about communication,” says Fan. “It’s about casting a vision so clearly that people get behind it with the full extent of their talents, abilities, and strengths.” Then, like teachers, the most influential leaders allow their team members to reach their full potential.
Keep your eyes on the big picture.
There are times when learning can be tedious, complex, and even dull. And, yes, great teachers are aware of this. However, by acknowledging their feelings, they help students see the bigger picture. Which, in turn, helps them move past these moments.
They know that challenging times are necessary to reach the ultimate learning goal. Moreover, they have a perspective that students cannot have and use that perspective to help people overcome challenges.
Successful leaders have a similar perspective. And, because of this, help those they lead through the mundane by raising their eyes towards the future.
“To keep my students on their toes, I give extra credit points every day,” says Dawn Bevier. “I offer three points to students who raise their hands and correctly answer simple questions during class discussions.” For difficult questions, I award five points.
“And when the school year begins, I make it clear to them that there are no extra credit points to beg for at the end of the semester,” she adds. “I tell them they have to gather them in the here and now.”
The semester ends with some students having seventy-five points or more.
“I think this ‘on your toes and in the moment’ extra credit opportunity is initially successful for obvious reasons,” Bevier explains. A student’s grades are important to them — and grades make a difference in their lives.
However, as time passes, it subconsciously motivates for reasons beyond extra credit points, which is ironic (and wonderful).
The reason for this is twofold.
- It becomes a competition. In order to prove their intelligence, a student wants to “one-up” each other.
- It is a source of pride. The more difficult five-pointers they get, the more confident and assertive the students become.
In what way does this teaching strategy relate to your business?
“When I offer these small incentives and competitive aspects to my instruction, students are constantly engaged — always thinking, listening, and working,” Bevier states.”And isn’t this the behavior every business owner wants their employees to display?”
What’s more, research shows that incentive programs “[increased] performance by an average of twenty-two percent,” and when “team incentives were offered, performance was improved by as much as forty-four percent.”
Best of all? These incentives don’t have to be cash-based. You could, for example, offer time-based rewards like leaving early on Fridays. But, most important, incentives should be based on the individual interests of your team members.
Turn expertise curriculum.
To attract and engage their target market, businesses engage in content marketing by sharing highly valuable resources and tools online, states Scott Barron, Founder of Yabwi. Getting the attention of key decision-makers is an essential part of business development. Why? There are too many competitors on the market, and people are distracted by so many media sources.
“Business leaders would be wise to tap into the expertise of educators in order to utilize modern approaches to curriculum design to build engagement internally (with employees, managers, etc.) and externally (with clients and communities),” Barron adds. “Understanding how people learn and how to craft instructional experiences that strengthen relationships offers a unique marketing advantage.”
“We’ve proven that such a platform of influence works through our own growth strategy, Barron says. “And we’ve shared this expertise with companies like 3M, Johnson Controls, and many others.”
Inspire trust by practicing empathy.
The job of an educator involves working with a whole bunch of different people like administrators, parents, community members, and students. They come from varied backgrounds, hold multiple priorities, and express their ideas in diverse ways. Because of that, educational leaders don’t make assumptions or dismiss anything anyone else has to say.
Similarly, leaders should also foster strong relationships with business partners, employees, stakeholders, and shareholders by developing emotional intelligence. Leaders should learn to value different perspectives and respect others’ points of view. It is important to remember that every individual sees things differently, so leaders can take the opportunity to use compassion in most situations. Compassion is a large part of emotional intelligence — and you can learn it.
Additionally, trust plays a crucial role. Despite a certain degree of authority associated with teaching, good teachers instill a sense of trust among learners. Leaders can also use the same method to support their teams.
Care about others’ success.
Students’ success is the top priority of exemplary teachers. They’re patient, and they’re willing to go the extra mile. And as a result, they do whatever it takes to help the student succeed.
Even though they understand and are willing to play their roles, they understand ultimately; that students are responsible for their performance. But, they still set up their students for success through knowledge, support, and guidance.
And this is true among business leaders. In the words of Stephen Covey, “An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success.
As a teacher, planning is a must. After all, by planning lessons in advance, teachers enter the classroom prepared to teach new concepts and facilitate meaningful discussions rather than winging them. In the absence of a lesson plan, it is easy for students to lose focus, and teachers are left scrambling for ideas.
In addition, when teachers and students are both engaged in the educational process, every day can be transformational.
Moreover, teachers use purposeful planning to identify where students are headed, what success looks like, and what is the most efficient way to achieve that success.
This is precisely the same (in all its variety) with successful leaders. It’s an imperative skill as planning archives the following:
- Helps you determine future goals.
- Expands decision-making.
- Establishes abilities and expectations.
- Encourage your team to develop new skills, engage them in new and challenging activities, believe in them, and take an interest in their career development.
- Encourages creativity and innovation.
- You will be able to identify your resources, who is currently available, track time, and manage time effectively.
- Focus on what truly matters. In turn, this reduces overlapping and wasteful moments.
Learn to be flexible.
It’s not uncommon for educators to have a tough time getting students to understand lessons and concepts. A variety of factors can cause difficulty in understanding lessons. For example, those without basic math skills may struggle to comprehend complex formulas. There’s also a chance the teacher delivered the content in a way that was hard for students to understand.
There’s no way a great teacher would overlook this issue. So instead, they analyze their teaching methods and identify the underlying problems. As a result, they adjust their teaching styles to fit the needs of their students.
There are times when business leaders become too consumed with their projects. Despite not getting the desired results from current strategies, they refuse to acknowledge they aren’t working. The business world would benefit from learning from educators. Specifically, being ready to change directions at any time. Leaders can experiment with different approaches and see if they work for their teams.
Bonus tip: It can be almost impossible to be flexible if your calendar is too cluttered and rigid. So, just like teachers have a prep period, I would leave some white space in your calendar. For example, you could leave the block from 11:30 am to 12:30 am open for a prep period. Then, we can use this time to grab some food, return emails, or plan for an afternoon meeting. Or, you can simply relax.
Embrace teachable moments.
A teachable moment occurs when a teacher offers their classrooms a unique insight into a topic that has captured their attention. To seize teachable moments, the teacher or parent must sense and seize them when they occur. In most cases, it’s a brief tangent from a lesson plan or conversation about something relevant or interesting. Kids are inherently more interested in topics they can relate to and feel how they apply to their day-to-day lives.
“When leaders teach is almost as important as what they teach,” writes Sydney Finkelstein, the Steven Roth Professor of Management at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College for HBR. “The successful leaders I studied didn’t wait for formal reviews or check-ins. Instead, they seized and created opportunities to impart wisdom.”
For example, Costco Wholesale co-founder and retired CEO Jim Sinegal knew lessons could appear at any time when working with Price at Price Club. Apparently, Sinegal “spent day and night teaching,” whether advising on retail tactics or making himself a more effective manager.
Likewise, Chase Coleman III, a protégé of hedge fund CEO Julian Robertson, said that Robertson was similarly “out to teach you a lesson” by showing “how to do things and how to run a business.”
“Some leaders ensure on-the-job learning by working in open offices that allow them to observe employees, project accessibility, and encourage frequent conversations,” adds Finkelstein. “Others opt for more-conventional offices but make a point of maintaining open-door policies and spending lots of time circulating among their staff, which means they can offer lessons on the spur of the moment—when people can best process and embrace them.”