Emotion, trust are vital today

2013-08-10 00:00

AS leaders, teachers need to be emotional, Professor Jonathan Jansen said in Pietermaritzburg yesterday. Speaking at the Proudly Primary 2013 conference being held at Cordwalles Prep School this weekend, he told the 1 000-plus delegates, in a session punctuated by much laughter and a few tears, they needed to hug more, listen more and lead by doing.

Titled “Touching the Future”, the conference was organised by the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa.

Jansen said it was important that teachers remembered that as leaders they were always on display, but at the same time the traditional concept of what a leader is needed to be challenged. “When we think of leadership we tend to think of it as masculine and testosterone-driven, where strength not weakness is admired. This is a 17th century view of leadership,” said the vice-chancellor and rector of the University of the Free State. “We need to be emotional … to lead 21st century organisations.”

Jansen said the first step to being an emotional leader was to know oneself — “who are you when the lights are off?” — and then be in touch with one’s environment. “I believe in being sensory,” he said. “Hugging, tasting, smelling and listening are important.” He said because his job at UFS is to understand his students he insisted on teaching first years. “It helps me to understand where they are politically and personally.”

He told the audience of primary school teachers that leaders needed to submit to be able to lead effectively. “When last did you cry with your student? When last did you say sorry? To submit means to be honest, to admit your own brokenness.”

He said closeness was essential for leadership. “People need to trust you as one who is close to them in periods of wellness and crisis. It’s not so much about physical proximity as emotional and spiritual closeness. Nearness is a crucial asset in the transformation process … kids will remember you not for what you taught, but how you were as a human being.”

Jansen also said that people respond to leadership being demonstrated, saying he liked principals who teach. “Do we as leaders give our kids a sense of hope,” he asked, saying that as a leader his purpose is to inspire young people.

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