Leadership Lessons from Great Teachers

Need Leadership Inspiration? Borrow from Your Favorite Teachers
Think back to your school days. Who were your favorite teachers? Most likely, they were not the teachers who taught straight out of the book, reading word-for-word. I’m willing to guess your favorite teachers were passionate about what they taught, excited to share their knowledge with you, truly cared about you and your success, and encouraged you to explore new ways of approaching and solving problems. They might not have even held the title of teacher — perhaps they were a coach, a family member, or a friend — but were a teacher nonetheless. Regardless of their title, position, or relationship to you, you looked to them as a role model and leader.

Great leaders, in addition to their other positive, distinguishing characteristics, are not only continual learners, but they are also great teachers. They make the time to invest in teaching their people and provide the support and resources their team members need to keep on growing. They care deeply about their people and want them to achieve their personal best.

What do great teachers and great leaders have in common? Just about everything! They both:


Believe in people: Great leaders believe that the people they are responsible for can accomplish great things. Even when other leaders may have written someone off, great leaders find individual’s strengths and lead them to levels that even the individual may not have thought possible.

Set high expectations: No one was ever motivated to follow a leader who said, “We set very low expectations for you this year and we are surprised…you hit your goals.” No, people are inspired by the leaders who set the bar high enough so that there is a big stretch to hit the goals. In fact, the goals people feel most proud about achieving are the ones that they were told were impossible.

Inspire people: When you are in the presence of a great leader, you feel from the moment you meet them, that they have a belief and trust in you that you can deliver the goods and get the job done. In fact, their vision and passion are so powerful that you are willing to work extra hard, with discretionary effort, not to let the leader down. These are the leaders who can inspire you to do things a new way, a way that is not comfortable for you, but ultimately, a way that will allow you to rise to a level you could have never reached on your own.

Provide individualized feedback: Great leaders realize that to be great, they need to practice equity, not equality. Equality is about treating everyone the same. That form of leadership would work great if every individual was identical. People are different. Great leaders know this and therefore give people individual attention to ensure they are fully successful in their own unique way.

Recognize and reward success: Great leaders and teachers are exceptional when it comes to giving people positive recognition and rewards for reaching clearly defined goals. The great leaders know that one of an individual’s greatest needs is to be recognized, valued, and appreciated. Some people will actually tell these great leaders that they do not need any recognition and that doing great work is the only form of satisfaction they need. Great leaders hear this and recognize that the individual who says they don’t need to be valued and recognized, actually needs it even more.

Role model continuous learning: To truly be considered a leader, not just a boss, leaders must be learners. Learning goes hand-in-hand with teaching. Whether you are a boss, a janitor, or a school teacher, you cannot be a great leader unless you are constantly learning. Are you constantly expanding your knowledge by reading, writing, and learning from others? If not, you are not growing. And, if you are not growing, that means you are becoming stagnant. People don’t follow stationary leaders.

These are just some of the characteristics that leaders can borrow from great teachers. To inspire you in your leadership of others, take note of the characteristics of the greatest teachers you had in your life and look for ways to incorporate that into your leadership, if you haven’t already.

What are some of the characteristics of the best teachers/leaders you’ve ever had?

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