Over the years, I’ve read more than a few books, listened to audiotapes and CDs, watched videos and attended conferences where I’ve had the chance to consider viewpoints on what makes leaders excellent in their work. Leader media take up more than a few linear feet of shelving in bookstores and quite a bit of space on the Internet.
Researchers quantify and qualify leaders. Biographers document leaders.
Leaders write and talk about themselves. Search “leaders” and you come up with millions of hits that lead to habits of leaders, characteristics of leaders, skills and competencies of leaders, procedures and processes of leaders, values of leaders and so on.
A lot of media get generated and sold to people looking to understand what makes leaders tick — successfully.
From my own lifelong research, there’s no particular leadership “sauce” or recipe for excellence that appears consistently across leaders. Based on millions of search hits on leaders, one thing is for sure: We have no common performance rubric for leaders that allows us to say: Be this, learn this, do this and you will reach the five. We define excellence in leaders differently depending upon our own point of view.
I would like to weigh in with my own current thinking about leaders. I’ve made it a habit to observe leaders from all walks of life who epitomize sustained commitment to and success in leading for changes that benefit those they serve. Reflecting upon all the sources I’ve explored and observations I’ve made over a career of synthesizing what leaders do to create success, I’ve come to the conclusion that leaders are, at the heart of their work, simply makers.
I’ve come to realize that “maker leaders” emerge from all demographics. They can be introverts, extroverts or ambiverts. They bring different experiences, capabilities, talents and habits with them. They are successful not because of what they know, but because of what they make.
What do leaders make?
- They make a culture that unleashes the potential of others.
- They make time to connect people inside and outside of their organizations, and to nurture and cross-pollinate ideas, resources, questions and solutions.
- They make diverse teams thrive by valuing the unique contributions and talents of each member as they lead and collaborate together to invent, design, create and produce.
- They make agenda space that validates creativity as a pathway to solving grand challenges, daily problems and unexplored possibilities.
- They make other leaders through opportunities that empower people to think and act out of conviction, commitment, knowledge, skill and courage.
- They make beliefs, ethical decision-making and regard for others’ core values in their actions.
- They make mistakes and use those as pathways to model humility as well as learning.
- And, they make their own leadership with their hands, their hearts and their heads as they listen, question, seek and share in the work with those they encounter, regardless of position, age or experience.
Maker leaders, I’ve observed work alongside anyone and do any job that needs to get done. No work anyone is expected to do is beneath them doing. As maker leaders work, they make an organizational ethos and mindful culture in which individuals believe in their chance to invest in work that matters to the planet.
To find and connect with maker leaders — teachers, administrators and young people — consider jumping into Twitter chat streams, including #ptchat, #edchat, #stuvoice, #ntchat, #satchat, #edtechchat and many content specific or state specific chats curated by @cybraryman1 at his website.
Pamela Moran serves as superintendent of Albemarle County Public Schools in Virginia. She is past- president of the Virginia Association of School Superintendents and serves on the Board of the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia as well as with the @all4ed Project 24 team. You can find her @pammoran on Twitter and blogging at http://spacesforlearning.wordpress.com/, among other sites.