The Hard Truth About Teachers and Leaders

May 20, 2016 3 Min Read

Teaching–one of the oldest professions in the world, if you come to think of it. Imagine going back in time to the Stone Age, where starting a fire would have probably been the most important skillset during a chilling winter.

Learning and refining this “specialised” skillset back then surely would’ve come from observing and imitating a fellow caveman. I’m quite certain some teaching of this skill was involved somewhere, albeit without much verbal communication.

One of the greatest teachers who has ever lived was Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, whose teachings on Buddhism reverberate through the entire world today. Buddha, who impressed upon millions the importance of transforming suffering into peace, joy and liberation, demonstrated how teaching with a clear purpose can create a wave of inspired and lasting change.

In today’s era where even YouTube can be a teacher (it’s true, there are enough self-made tutorials online for you to master anything), leaders sometimes question the relevance of teaching in their portfolio.

However, there are many reasons why great leaders (who are great teachers) transform and touch lives like no other.

Why should leaders teach?

A simple enough question. Perhaps an easier way to answer this question is to find the commonality between leading and teaching. What makes leaders great teachers? Studies have proven that the best teachers behave very much like the best leaders, because both focus on a common factor – transformational behaviour.

Transformational behaviour is one that influences and encourages growth, and motivates great performance. It reveals a culture that allows a person to emulate, understand, reflect and generate something beyond the constraints of the mind—this is what creates great ideas, plans and strategies. A leader who can teach someone to be all of this is indeed a great one.

In an article about the Leaders as Teachers approach, Neal Goodman says, “A key principle behind this approach is that no group of people has greater responsibility to drive the agenda of the organisation than its leaders.”

Here are three reasons why leaders should teach, especially in times where agility and synergy are two keywords every organisation seems to look at:

1. Great teachers communicate their vision clearly

Great teachers communicate in an effective, highly engaging way. I remember my Form 3 History teacher till this day. The way he taught us to understand history was never for the sake of answering exam questions; it was to share his vision in ensuring we understood the relevance of history in present times.
Similarly, when leaders “teach” the company vision clearly and continuously with their people, this creates a strong, synergistic company culture. There is no room for misinterpretation, and an opportunity arises for everyone to learn directly from the leader.

2. Great teachers care about making a real difference

A leader leads because of a deeper reason. Great leaders lead because they are driven to make a real change, to transform lives and rewrite history (as far as visionaries go!).

Great teachers care about making such changes, and are passionate about sharing this drive with everyone they come into contact with.
Leaders who put aside time to reiterate their focus and share organisational goals with their people, automatically reinforce their beliefs. This in turn can be the determining factor in motivating and inspiring others, or otherwise.

3. Great teachers know the importance of purposeful work

Purpose. A word that ignites a myriad of feelings in anyone who has questioned why they continue to do what they do, be it at work or anywhere else. A great teacher understands that finding purpose is key to happiness and satisfaction.

A leader who invests in teaching others to continuously find purpose in everything they do will have achieved a stupendous feat—allowing for individuals to grow and flourish without restraints, while understanding that purpose is at the heart of great work. Trust me, this is a feat that isn’t easily achieved in this day.

Teach by leading

For a leader to be a great teacher, the best way to teach is to lead by example. Dolly Parton couldn’t have said it better:

If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.

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Darshana is a former HR Media Specialist at Leaderonomics. A PR consultant, photographer, and associate trainer, her career path has been anything but monotonous.

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