10/29/2011 01:29:00 am

Leading and Bossing

Posted by Tom French |

I was at a school recently and as often happens I sat through an assembly. Schools enjoy piggy backing chapels with assemblies sometimes which means in the last two years I have seen a lot of merit awards handed out. In fact on a few occasions I've even handed out merit awards. I've shaken kids' hands and said "Well done" because I was the most auspicious person in the room. That was weird.

Anyway, that's not the point. On this day, after the assembly. a year nine class got held back. They were all asked to write a report on what had happened in an English lesson the day before. Apparently there had been some chair throwing or something. The teacher told the class they were expected to write a report on what happened and they were expected to name names.

That got me thinking about what I would do were I asked to write a report on the behaviour of my peers. Say we had a staff meeting and while my boss was out of the room a few of my staff mates threw some chairs around and set fire to a table. Then the head of our organisation called us in and asked us to write a report and name names. I don't know what I'd do. My first response would probably be to refuse, though I'm not sure why. I guess I've grown up with the notion that you don't dob in your mates. I also think I have a problem with adversarial authority. Like when a teacher sets themselves up against a class, or management set themselves up against employees, It gets to me and makes me want to rebel.

However were my boss to sit down with all the staff and have a conversation about who threw what chair and who lit what fire, and why it happened, and what message we might be trying to send management or each other, or society, by having small riots (ri-ettes, if you will), I would be much happier to talk about who did what. I respond well to relational leadership. I think that's why I haven't had any dreams about rebelling against my bosses at work. I have good bosses who do things within the context of relationship rather than enforcement. I do however have dreams about rebelling against teachers, and my managers at the cinema and the entertainment centre. In those places my compliance was expected because they were in-charge and I was their subordinate. It seems I'm not keen on being bossed but I am keen on being led. Good leaders lead through relationships built and respect earned. Bad bosses boss through relationships ignored and respect assumed.

So all this I guess is to say, I still don't know if I'd dob on my friends, but if I had a good boss (which I do) I probably wouldn't need to.

This leads me back to thinking about how you relate to teenagers. In general, leading teens is the same as leading adults, it's best in the context of built relationships and earned respect. In schools, it doesn't really work like that. The teachers are the bosses and the students are the workers, teachers often expect teenagers to obey because authority us inherent within the role. So when an adult comes along and asks for obedience and responsibility which is not expected but earned, young people are going to be much more likely to repsond positively.

None of this stuff is really new, but I think it's what I got thinking about while watching the chair throwing inquisition. It reminded me to not be lazy in my relationships with young people. My job is to lead not to boss.