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Teaching is an act of leadership

As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate ... When the best leader's work is done the people say, We did it ourselves! Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher - 600-531 BC Introduction This article posits the view that teaching is leading in the real sense of the word. It should be noted that etymologically education is derived from the Latin educere meaning to lead forth. At the outset, however, we need to unlearn of notions of leadership as positions of prestige or power or status and to avoid using the loosely used term leader which is linked to a wide range of situations that have nothing to do with the process of leadership e.g., market leader, team leader, party leader, to mention only a few of them. Someone (or something) may be called a leader, but this does not mean that they are actually exercising leadership. This has been discussed at length in an earlier article entitled What do we Understand by Leadership? (http://www.lemauricien.com/article/what-do-we-understand-leadership). Similarly, not all those who are called teachers are actually involved in the process of teaching. Change Leadership is generally defined as the act of mobilizing people to willingly undergo positive, sustainable change. Leadership, to summarize MacGregor Burns, espouses a value-based relationship between leaders and followers in which each transforms the other leaders transforming followers, helping them to become leaders themselves a process that involves the transformation of leaders and followers into better, more self-actualized people, with leaders and followers raising one another to higher levels of motivation and morality. Similarly, the ultimate goal of teaching is to promote learning, and learning is generally defined as an observable change in behavior resulting from a certain experience. It is clear that change is a key common element that is at the heart of both processes leadership and teaching. After all, teaching cannot be said to be effective, if there has been no learning no observable change in behavior. Similarly, if no positive change takes place, one may question the effectiveness of leadership. Savoir-tre Learning involves not only improvements in skill level but more importantly changes in who we are as human beings. These changes require the participation of the learner, the willingness to work hard, to take risks and sometimes suffer, the ability to forego short-term gratification, the capacity to endure failure and loss while maintaining the same high level of intrinsic motivation. This is what Ronald Heifetz calls adaptive leadership.

It would be easier to understand the similarity between teaching and leadership if we assume that the primary objective of the teacher is to foster a love for the subject and a passion for learning with the transmission of knowledge as a secondary objective. If the primary objective is achieved, the secondary one is likely to take care of itself with minimum effort on the part of the teacher. Whenever we nostalgically think of some of the best teachers we have had in the past, those that come first to mind are the ones that have met this primary objective. While we would not remember everything that these teachers taught us, the passion for the subjects and for learning would have become an integral part of our mental make-up. It is not easy to appreciate this definition of teaching and learning in an era where education has become a mercenary transactional activity, a business of selling diplomas and degrees with all the marketing gimmicks including giveaways and discounts, with little attention being paid to the quality of the teaching / learning experience or to any observable change in the students behavior. Implications for policy makers The above discussion has an important bearing on the way policy makers think and operate. They need to refrain from throwing technical solutions at adaptive challenges like ensuring quality education for all. The ineffectiveness of many education reform initiatives now can be traced back to this tendency. These challenges require adaptive and not technical solutions1. Similarly, policy makers should realize that if teachers are to exercise leadership and not just authority (which hopefully would be based on expertise or mastery of the subject), teacher training curricula would need to include specific provisions for leadership development. More importantly, school administrators would also need to ensure that they too practice transformational leadership a process wherein, as mentioned above, leaders transform followers and help them to become leaders themselves. This is unfortunately not the case in many schools and colleges where head teachers / rectors often adopt an autocratic style. And as expected the teachers respond negatively to this treatment and fail to exercise the kind of leadership expected from them. Finally, if we pay due attention to the leadership dimension in our educational institutions2, one day when the work is done, the students would turn round and unhesitatingly say, We did it ourselves! See What do we Understand by Leadership? (http://www.lemauricien.com/article/what-do-weunderstand-leadership) for a detailed discussion on the difference between technical and adaptive solutions. 2 This writer will gladly assist in proposing ways to implement Leadership Development Programs for the education sector. Rajendra Patil Hunma Co-Founder The Leadership Network (Email: patil@intnet.mu)