Leader as Teacher

Image Courtesy: Dee's Fancy Dress

Image Courtesy: Dee’s Fancy Dress

An interesting saying from oft-quoted US novelist Richard Bach is that:

You teach best what you most need to learn.[1]

For people running businesses or significant activities, leadership is probably what they most need to improve – no matter how good they are at the moment. The implication is that they benefit most from trying to develop it in others.

The idea has been around a long time. In martial arts, for instance, once a student achieves a certain level, they are expected to teach as the best way to improve. By having to explain things others and studying and critically appraising them, the idea is that they appreciate better their own faults.

Many also argue that there is a double benefit in trying to improve leadership in others i.e. that the greater the spread of good leadership, the more effective your organisation. Organisations that rely on leadership ‘from the top’ are tied to the success and failure of that person.

In theory, we should therefore look forward to appraisals; relish the thought of difficult conversations with others, and be constantly observing our own impact. None of these, however, are easy, although another quote from Richard Bach might help:

Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you.[2]

If teaching is about sharing, coaching and enabling people to realise what they already know, perhaps the traditional student/teacher (inferior/superior) relationship can be eased and awkward conversations made more positive. The question raised becomes:

When you teach, what perspective are you adopting? And could it be better?

Wouldn’t it be great for appraisals and difficult conversations to be easier, more meaningful and satisfyingly productive.


[1]Richard Bach, 1977, “ llusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah”, his follow up to “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”

[2] Ibid

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