Introduction Leadership is basically an influence process. If the leader is able to influence a small group of people or even one hundred people through his or her honesty and integrity, articulated Vision, concrete action plans, and an insatiable desire to be totally different from other teachers in terms of certain characteristics, that particular person will automatically emerge as a leader of sorts. Such leaders are always too good in their words and deeds.
In any school or college, any individual teacher can indeed become a leader in his or her own right. In the main, such a process of developing the right leadership skills will come by and through a) Walking the talk b) Keeping away from school or college politics c) Enveloping collective consciousness of all students d) Making efforts to tap individual talents and resources and e) Making continuous efforts to develop further through feedback.
Walking the talkThis is the most basic of all leadership qualities. The entire world will celebrate those who are sincere in doing what they preach to others. In every school and even in many colleges, Mahatma Gandhi and others of his ilk have always been role models for millions. The teacher must indeed have the highest level of honesty and integrity. He or she should be seen as a totally selfless leader, who respects others, tolerates dissent, and is never afraid of competition. In other words, the leader is always comfortable with any other teacher who is more intelligent or resourceful than him or her. There are cases of effective leaders who have gone all out of the way in encouraging other talented teachers to be in the limelight but still making a big mark through their individual efforts.
Quite simply, if the teacher has the moral authority that gets reflected in every action that adds value to not only the teaching process but also the particular educational and learning environment of the school, he or she can emerge as a leader. Of late, we do hear of so many success stories of such leaders from among teachers in the remote semi-urban and rural environments. All such case-studies should be documented and made available in the particular local language and in English on the website of the particular educational institution. In other words, it becomes essential for all to know about good work being done in some part of the country, so that it will motivate others too. This will inspire all others to make a sincere attempt at acquiring such leadership qualities. To give the best ever example of a tall leader, one should recollect the exemplary leadership of the late
Dr. Kurien, the well-known leader of the National Dairy Development Board,(NDDB), and the pioneer of India's white revolution. He innovated the concept of an institute of higher education, primarily meant to cater to the needs of India's rural sector and its institution, namely, the co-operative enterprises, agro-based industries, research institutes on agriculture, and so on. He established the Institute of Rural Management situated at Anand, a medium-sized town near Baroda in Gujarat. Today, it is a a one of its kind institution that has international recognition.
Similarly, every single teacher, irrespective of where or what he teaches, can become a leader in his or her right, by simply getting inspired by such leaders.
Keeping away from school or college politics When selfishness envelops the human mind, the person starts doing politics. Irrespective of whether it is a school or a college, the Management has to make it clear that only results will work. In fact, we now see evidence of this happening to the engineering colleges in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. We find the leaders and the laggards. Managements that had invested in skill development of the teachers, without any politics, have become the best-branded colleges, where only merit works. For example, even among the branded colleges in Chennai, Panimalar Engineering Colleget Chennai stands out. Though this belongs to the famous Jeepiyar group of colleges, which manages the Sathyabama University, it is a branded college of Anna University. It has reached its present status, only due to the high quality of its teachers, many of whom possess good leadership skills, according to many students who were interviewed by me. There is no politics at all. The policy of shape up or ship out is very relevant to this college.
Enveloping collective consciousness of all students Any teacher needs to be an Shah Rukh Khan of Chak De fame, in real life. The key is motivation. There are too many distractions. The electronic media and social media have had tremendous influences on all students in both schools and colleges. The teacher has to indeed become a hero or a heroine of sorts. The motivational movies might really help. There is one called "Peranmai" in Tamil as well. There is another called "Aduththa Sattai", where the teacher goes about systematically reforming the school environment. It is not rocket science at all.
All the teacher needs to do is to have a personal rapport with each student to the extent possible and develop the focus that is very much needed. There are colleges where the individual teacher would do the cleaning of his or her desk to motivate the students to follow personal hygiene. He would even give a little of his own money to help a poor student. There are teachers who make a mark by going all of the ways by developing teamwork among students. They collaborate with the local Lions Club, for example, and get the students to organize a blood donation camp or an eye camp for the local people. The teacher would spend his entire spare time on the weekends to meet parents of students who would be ready to join a college. He would demonstrate his sincerity in the welfare of the students. Such instances are not uncommon. In fact, this is exactly what is meant by enveloping the collective consciousness of all relevant others in a given situation. The scope for innovation is always quite high.
There is an increasingly growing number of schools where the local community is involved in organizing a "food festival". Groups of local people, which will obviously include the parents to some extent, would organize themselves and make some food items, often sold for a marginal profit. The key is the development of the organizing and managerial skills of all students. The teacher acts a key motivator in the entire process.
Making efforts to tap individual talents and resources We have heard stories of dedicated teachers of remote village Government schools. They would have donated part of their salary to get the basic resources in place. After seeing the sincerity of the teacher, the local community raises to the occasion, and even old students, who would have studied only up to the fifth standard in that school but now settled abroad, would be requested to chip in with contributions in cash or kind.
The teacher organizes a variety of extra-curricular activities and also taps the special talents of the students. The school gets maximum attention and there is an upgrade to the next level. Ultimately, the Government school receives all support and even gets the smart rooms. All this is not wishful thinking. There have been press reports of such dramatic change. The world will be a far better place to live in if only we have lots of more such teachers in our schools and colleges.
Making continuous efforts to develop further through feedbackThis is at the individual level. The teacher, after all, is a human being. As such, he or she could also have some weakness, even if he or she is a very good leader. It always happens that are moments of weakness that make its own display, even unconsciously. When this happens, the feedback from the concerned others is extremely important. By institutionalizing a climate of openness, the leader can easily get useful feedback and correct whatever weakness is pointed out and also get that corrected. This is an extremely important step in the leadership process. It can always be done. The individual teacher should understand the relevance of this step and act accordingly.
ConclusionThe aforesaid discussions are the summary of whatever observations I have made in some school or college environment. As always, the real world is the best laboratory for learning. The more experience one has, he or she will be able to develop far better as a leader.
Teachers are the makers of society. The students whom they teach today are going to be the citizens of tomorrow. A good teacher would always become a role model for his students and that is where his leadership starts. Once the students start considering him as their mentor who can help them through their studies and career they would become his followers or fans. A teacher has ample opportunities to become a leader but he has to set the example for becoming that. There are certain things that a teacher should possess if he is really interested in leading the house. The first thing is knowledge. His academic notions and clarities should be of superb qualities and students should consider him the ultimate source for their queries. The second thing is character. The teacher wants his students should be transparent and true in their dealings and to get that he himself should belong to that clan. Many students mimic their teachers considering them their role model. For becoming a leader a teacher should also be a good organiser especially in functions where students are also involved. The behaviour of the teacher with the students outside the school premises is one important thing that helps him to become a real leader.
Teachers make the future generation. So teachers have an immense responsibility to build a nation. Actually every teacher is a born leader. Nowadays the technique of leading students is one of the greatest challenge faced by the teachers. To overcome this challenge he or she must possess some qualities.
First is knowledge. Teachers must have sound knowledge of his subject. So that students clearly understand the content to fulfil their queries. Teaching skill is also an important aspect because the lessons should be relevant and useful for applying even a few years later.
Second is a strong vision. Teachers gain leadership skill when they develop a clear vision for what must be true in order for students to realize their goal and for the result by the end of the academic year. Vision is perhaps one of the most important qualities as it provides momentum and direction to every student.
The third is the teacher's motivation skill. Motivation has enormous power to help the students to reach their goal.
Thank you. You might have perhaps heard the name of Shri Kuruvilla Jacob, who made giant strides in making the Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School into a high-quality school. In most Government schools, the teachers have any number of problems. Emerging as a successful leader is no joke in such environments. The buy-in from the local population is as essential as is the motivation and drive of the individual teacher. Constant interaction with parents to tap the immense native intelligence of their children needs to be done, almost every single day. The process is cumbersome and is a thankless job. Yet, there are teachers who just do not do only teaching; they go the extra mile and get things done. Everything happens as if there is no problem at all.
Only after one full year, the local community starts listening. Resources pour in and the school becomes a school of repute. The principal or the individual teacher will incur the wrath of all lazy teachers; but when the change happens, the change agent in the leader comes to the surface and his words and actions become the law. It becomes the norm.
These things are not fiction. They have indeed happened in many quarters and in many environments. We need to support such leaders. Let us remember that the Government schools and colleges remain the only hope for the education of the poor. Once this fact is understood by all, we can indeed see so many changes in our society.