Inclusive Leadership: The Power of Influence

Boss vs. Leader and Mission of a TeamTake a minute to close your eyes and think about the words that come to your mind when you think of these two words:



Think about your current / past boss. Would you call them a great leader? Think about a leader in your organization. Is he or she a good boss too?

The picture here effectively summarizes the differences between a boss and a leader. The term ‘boss’ usually has negative connotations – one can usually visualize an authority figure, one who’s also usually authoritarian. A boss is someone who directs, demands, drives (one up the wall).

The word ‘leader’, on the other hand, has predominantly positive connotations. A leader is a coach, a mentor, an inspiration. I think one of the most significant differences between a boss and a leader is that the latter is someone we would like to follow, to emulate, to become.

I’ve been taking this course on Inclusive Leadership on edX and they have a great summary of the qualities of great leaders. Here’s the Take 5 on leadership, with my thoughts about what Inclusive Leadership means in the context of educators and educator leaders.


  1. Leadership is about influencing others to achieve a common goal.
    Instead of enforcing them, can you influence others to follow the rules of the organization? The first step in influencing others is to lead by example, and to set a good example.
  2. Often, leadership is not as complicated as we may think.
    In fact, it’s just about as simple as life. Or as complicated. Not as complicated as we may think. Have I bamboozled you yet?
    So how do you do it?
    – Lead / live with kindness: Be kind to yourself and to others, at all times.
    – Lead / live with openness: Be open to new and alternative ideas, alternative visions. Embrace them before you reject them.
    – Set your priorities – short and long-term: Yes, getting those mid-term results out on time is very, very important, and you must try to get everyone to submit their reports on time. But guess what, no one’s life depends on it. If it doesn’t get done, breathe, because the world is still spinning.
    – Stay organized: Those mid-term reports that didn’t get submitted.. where did the organization fail?
  3. Anyone can lead.
    Actually, we all do. As Ursula Burns, CEO of Xerox, says at the 2013 Catalyst Awards Conference, “I expect every single person in our 140,000-person company at some point in time in the day, when it’s their time, when their skills, when their opinions, when their expertise actually is called on, that they actually step up and take charge.”
    And the greatness of an inclusive leader is to spot these rays of leadership in the most un-leader-like team members.
  4. Leadership requires simple action that anyone can do – asking the difficult questions, supporting new ideas.
    This, you will agree with me, is not easy. To stand out from the crowd requires gumption. But what it also requires is faith – in oneself and in what we stand for. Is it really a good idea to throw whiteboards out of all classrooms and replace them with IWBs so that teachers are forced to marry them – for better or for worse? Your answer, and your decision will depend on whether you believe in the power of educational technology.
  5. Followers are also leaders.
    Inclusive leaders recognize that every staff member, every teacher in the school, is also a leader who needs space and support to flourish. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to raise a leader.

So what do you think?

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