What are the top 3 features of an emerging leader?

Monday, 9th August, 2010

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Last month I asked the question, via Twitter, “What do you think are the Top 3 features of an emerging leader?”

Before I share the responses, and my own thoughts, I will provide a brief context.

At the time, I was about to go into a coaching session with an enthusiastic young teacher – at the end of her NQT year – who was looking to develop her leadership skills in preparation for leading a core subject from September.

My personal view …

Emerging leaders can appear at any level; you don’t have to be in a positive of middle or senior management. During my experience working in the education sector I have seen many examples of emerging leadership, from observing a student teacher influencing staff and pupils to get behind, and take part in, his after-school music club … to a 2nd year teacher inspiring colleagues during her leadership of a residential trip.

With both teachers, the key features were energy, enthusiasm and ideas.

The teacher I was coaching certainly had energy and enthusiasm, but she also had doubt and uncertainty, and an unhelpful abundance of ‘why should they listen to me?‘ This was purely down to her feeling inexperienced and lacking in some confidence.

As we talked, she realised it wasn’t about having all the answers; she focused on the areas she did feel confident in and how she could build on this in practical terms. We put together a programme for the year, and she left feeling more assured and more certain about how she could tackle (and enjoy!) her new leadership role.

Turing now to the responses to my question on Twitter

Thanks to @pkainsworth, @helenbett, @camlecolorado and @stevewn for sharing their thoughts. The common themes were around having humility and energy. Other features suggested included:

  • empathy
  • moral values based on conviction
  • listening
  • visibility
  • integrity
  • entrepreneurial

I would suggest that many of these qualities and skills are reflected in Jo Owen’s Foundations of Leadership (see ‘How to Lead‘), which also include:

  • managing upwards and supporting others
  • self-awareness and adaptability
  • having drive and ambition
  • able to find solutions
  • able to sell ideas
  • is loyal and reliable

Owen adds that as emerging leaders become leaders, they maintain these behaviours, as well as learn/develop new ones and in my next blog, Practising the Art of Leadership, I will explore these further.

But to conclude for now, my top 3 features of an emerging leader would be summarised by The Three I’s, though not for one minute am I suggesting leaders are selfish! …

  • Influencing – through skills/qualities such as empathy, listening and integrity
  • Inspiring – with energy and enthusiasm
  • Ideas – including being innovative and having an objective evaluation of own ideas as well as those of others

I welcome your thoughts / experiences on this topic.


debbie019 fThank you for taking time to read this blog.

I’m Debbie Inglis, a performance coach, mentor and trainer, working with Heads, Principals, School leaders and their teams to maximise leadership performance, create more effective, confident, and motivated teams … in a way that brings out the best in you.

If you’re interested in my services, please get in touch, and you can read more here.