Great Leaders are Great Teachers … Some Simple Ideas on Leadership

Great Leaders are Great Teachers …
Some Simple Ideas on Leadership
By Jerry Posner

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Leonardo DaVinci

Often, the most practical and actionable wisdom is elementary and uncomplicated. Consider Dr. Stephen Covey’s bestseller, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” — all simple reminders that can create powerful results … when applied. K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Sweetie!

When I speak or write about leadership, I usually combine the role of “leader” with “trainer” as leaders are continually teaching and training their team, by example (behavior, mood, tone, body language, etc.) and by instruction. Great leaders are great teachers. And as the emerging field known as positive psychology suggests, emotions are contagious (especially the emotions of the boss)! Emotional intelligence is an important factor for successful leadership.

Did you ever have a teacher or a coach, perhaps a mentor or manager that you totally respected … and totally respected you? Someone who understood people’s feelings? Someone who’s skills you admired? Someone who made you feel proud to be on their team or working for their business? Here’s a little exercise: write down the names of two or three of them, and write down the qualities you respected the most. Begin your workday by reminding yourself of those qualities. Take note of how thinking about those qualities makes you feel. Inspired? Motivated? See what happens in a month or two of these daily reminders!

When a leader exhibits qualities like kindness, compassion, fairness and courage in the workplace, it is likely that the team (and the company culture) will exhibit those qualities as well. Naturally, this filters down throughout the organization and to the customers, clients, vendors and community. This is called “treatment transfer” and of course, it works both ways.

But just recognizing common sense wisdom isn’t enough. It must be applied. There has to be practice. Not hard or tedious practice, just a little bit of practice every day. Focus with daily frequency. Get feedback. Have some fun!

So, what are the habits you might want to develop and what are the habits you might want to trash? Always excellent questions. Do we want to improve our communication skills, for example? Handle stress better? Act kinder and more compassionately? More decisive? Better organized? Give yourself honest feedback; perhaps get some from others, too. Evaluate the feedback without becoming too defensive. Great leaders get lots of feedback and use it.

I like short, catchy phrases or reminders, to help me remember the habits I want to make and the habits I want to trash! When I focus my attention on those trigger-phrases daily, they affect my thinking and behavior, eventually sinking into my long-term memory, creating new habits, and … voila!

Here are some to consider:

Emotions are contagious, so it pays to know what I’m feeling.
Inspire the passion!
Remember the vision!
Compassion is always an option.
I treat my staff the way I want them to treat our customers.
I recognize great ideas and transmit them to my team.
What’s important to me now?
I make my choices based on the outcomes I most desire.
I am committed to the success of my team.
I am the coach, not the critic.
I tell the truth and keep my promises.
I communicate clearly, accurately, kindly, effectively, (C.A.K.E.)
Great leaders are great teachers!

Feel free to use some of mine or write your own. One word triggers can be helpful, too, words like: purpose, calm, peace, gratitude, smile, alert, appreciate, listen, caring. Use words and phrases that inspire you … guide behavior … make you feel good! Put them on post-it notes, file cards, posters, screen-savers …

Storytelling is a great skill for leaders to develop; especially when the story illustrates the material you want to teach. Good stories are “sticky” — people remember them. Real life or fiction, a great story well delivered is a terrific leadership tool and will help with public speaking also.

And speaking of public speaking … when invited to say a few words, be prepared! Always have “a few words” ready and rehearsed, if necessary. Great leaders are confident speakers.

So many of the old common-sense sayings and clichés contain the wisdom of exemplary leadership. When we recognize the ones that are useful to us, and reinforce them regularly, then we get some improvement! For example:

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
“What goes around comes around.”
“Be careful what you wish for … you might get it.”
“Let sleeping dogs lie.”
“A stitch in time saves nine.”
“Plan your work … and work your plan.”
“One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.”
“Don’t get wet before it rains.”
“Before you lose your temper, count to ten.”
“What ‘the thinker’ thinks ‘the prover’ proves”
“You can’t get to the top by sitting on your bottom.”

Great leaders are great teachers … and great students, also!

Jerry Posner is an engaging conference speaker, “motivational entertainer,” author and training specialist. He will be presenting a three-hour workshop, “Ways to Be a Better ‘Leader-Trainer’” on November 8 at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce office in Hudson. Cost is $49 for members and $89 for non-members. To make reservations, please call the Chamber at (518) 828-4417. For more information about Jerry, visit


One thought on “Great Leaders are Great Teachers … Some Simple Ideas on Leadership

  1. Great leaders are inclusive and inspiring and these are important things to remember as you point out–my most inspiring leaders/teachers always made me feel important and included…just as you do!

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