The benefits of leading from behind

Hey John,

Hey John,

Your post on responsive writing as a teacher leader reminds me of a quote from Nelson Mandela:

“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”

We need to listen to this every so often because it helps. The idea that we always need to lead from the front, charge forward without the people we lead in mind, or work individually doesn’t always make sense. Sometimes, leading from behind means you’re in on all the conversations, get a better feel for the people’s wants and needs, and probably makes us better teachers, too.

This might sound ironic considering my current presence on the Internet, but the truth is that we don’t truly exist independently, but interdependently, testing our voices out for pitch and tenor.

How do we adapt to the needs of our students, our peers, and our “superiors?” What makes our voices remarkable compared to our colleagues? How do we create our own language that pushes back against those who seek to move us away from talking about children? How do we motivate our children to get better at the things they do?

Lots of questions, and we can answer many of these in due time. In the interim, we have a charge here, John: to listen more than we speak, to push people to think harder about the decisions they’re making, and to speak to the experience of the classroom teacher. While we’re not a monolith by any means, you and I do have enough cache to represent a good chunk of the teaching population.

Sometimes, it means we don’t necessarily put ourselves in front when it behooves us, but instead, watching and waiting until the right moment. It lets us lead more effectively, so when the tough times come, we’ll be ready to walk with instead of walking against.

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