Leadership 4 Learning. #ASK. Leading with a Learner Mindset

Leadership 4 Learning #ASK. Leading with a Learner Mindset.

Change Leaders are Leaders who #ASK

“Who we are matters immeasurably more than
what we know or who we want to be.”
Brene Brown, Dare To Lead

At the beginning of the year, my daughter Sammy had the opportunity to apply to be a School Leader. She is in Year Eight, her final at the school before she heads to college next year. She was desperate to be a Leader. The process involved a written application in the first instance, which was an explanation as to why she would be a great School Leader.

Her focus was on what a great Leader is and how she would bring those skills and dispositions to the role. Her friends, however, took a more campaign type approach to their letters of application, indicating all the changes they would make and things they would do as a Leader. Sammy became more and more distressed the more she and her friends discussed what they had written in their letters — thinking that she had written her letter wrong.

What is interesting here is that Sammy and her friends felt that they needed to be a Leader already, to already hold the label, before they could or would bring their skills to the table or lead all the campaigns they talked and wrote about. They felt that having the label - School Leader - gave licence to, at worst, tell others what to do, and at best, lead initiatives in the school.

I have to ask - what message is this giving our kids?

Last week I ended my post with a quote from Brene Brown.
"Who we are matters immeasurably more than what we know or who we want to be."

And while that was the message going out to Sammy, I do wonder if it was fully received. I know she wanted to be a Leader so that she could organise others. Organise others by telling them what to do. So, the "I'm the Expert" mindset starts early. Neurologically, it is our instinctive default setting. Slipping into "I'm the Expert" is just a part of being human. We are all recovering "I'm the Expert”s, and we like to think that we have all the answers, especially if we are in charge.

There is no doubt that our "I'm the Expert" nature can be a bit addictive. It is easier to tell than to ask. Asking is time-consuming, and we often find ourselves in a hurry to get things done. However, the more we indulge our "I'm the Expert" mindset, the more it becomes a habit and takes over. While it's true that we can never get rid of our "I'm the Expert" mindset, we can learn to manage it, to just be with it. Once we can do that, a whole new way of being becomes available to us. Awareness, commitment, compassion, courage, forgiveness, acceptance—with a dash of humour—that's what it takes to keep recovering ourselves and resetting our course back to the "I'm a Learner" mindset path.

There are many skills needed to be able to be a Leader with a learner mindset, one who asks rather than tells. Sammy likes to organise and coordinate things; she even keeps us as a family organised. We often find ourselves being told what to do — being organised to get things done.

The outcome of the application was that Sammy made it to the next stage of the process and was required to give a talk to the whole school about why she would make a good School Leader. She courageously kept to her message of all the key skills of a Leader that she would bring rather than switching her approach to be the same as everyone else. Suffice to say, it ended successfully, and she is now a proud one of 8 School Leaders this year.

Three terms in and Sammy now realises it is not about who has what label and who should or should not be the keeper of the knowledge. She is beginning to understand that everyone in the team has something to contribute regardless of their label and that, if we want to grow great people, then as Leaders we need to step out from behind the label. Sammy can now see that she would still be able to do all of the things expected of her and which she has done as a Leader - even if she didn't have the label. Her leadership skills come with her. Her leadership is about who she is not what badge she is putting on.

Nga Mihi



Brown, Brene. Dare to Lead. Random House Publishing Group, 2018.


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Change Your Questions, Change Your Life.jpg
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Brown, Brene. Dare to Lead. Random House Publishing Group, 2018.

Adams, Marilee. Change Your Questions, Change Your Life. 3rd edition,  Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2016

Brown, Brene. Rising Strong. Random House Publishing Group, 2015.