by Kathy Minardi
Authenticity is one of those terms that people hear and understand at some level, but don’t really “get.” Many people think of it as just being oneself. Actually, authenticity is deeper and bigger than that.
How can we recognize an authentic leader? Most of us can feel it, and we tend to say that it has something to do with someone’s presence. We feel connected in some way. The authentic leader creates genuine trust and is generative; he or she draws from deep source material and understands that people are not perfect but works with them anyway. Authentic leaders cultivate the truth about things, along with a vision for the future that reflects deep values and principles.
Most of us who are engaged in leading Montessori schools learn to “play the game” at some level. We are the public face of the school in many ways. Many schools refer to this role as “head of school” or HOS. I love to think of HOS as “human operating system.” Our human operating system can support a certain amount of our playing the leadership role, but inevitably our own deeper needs and voice are likely to get pushed into the background in an effort to “be the part.” This is a story that gradually generates an inauthentic way of being. We cease listening to the clarity of our own thinking and our inner voice in the face of so much competing noise and competing interests in the fray of our role. It can override us.
When we are striving as a leader to be more authentic, we can try to stay in touch with our vision of our best self and the aspirations we have for ourselves by noticing daily what life is calling for. “Noticing” is an active act of observation and reflection. The more we notice, the more insightful we become and the more thoughtful the decisions we make. Each day we have the chance to greet life from a more authentic stance by bringing our fuller awareness forward. We listen for and notice those places where our authenticity is thwarted, where presence is diminished or where our power is weakened. This reflective action tells us where we can grow and further develop. Finally, authentic leaders are motivated, open and vulnerable to developing.
Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, Harvard Graduate School of Education, have recently published “An Everyone Culture; Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization.” While the book focuses on examples from the business world, it is a compelling charge for us who are leading Montessori schools! The deliberately developmental model in our schools would be one where all the humans – children and adults – are on a deliberate continuum of growth and development. Our Montessori schools are about “deliberately” aiding life – removing the obstacles to growth and allowing for development. Developmental principles are rooted in the possibility of new life emerging, new capacities developing, and evolution at an individual and a collective level. Authentic leadership from this perspective places us all in a personal and professional continuum of growth and development. This dynamic mindset is a catalyst for conscious authenticity when we truly embrace our own growth.
Neil Stroud, a leadership coach at Georgetown University’s coaching school, shares a series of reflective questions. Here are a few to try on:
- Q: When I am experiencing “life at its best” what am I able to notice about how I am feeling? What am I doing and what is happening around me?
- Q: What talents or abilities do I possess that, when I’m applying them, I feel a sense of rightness or wholeness?
- Q: What do I stand for?
- Q: What am I able to notice about my experiences as a follower?
- Q: Are there universal principles of leading that inspire others to follow?
Authentic leadership is available to each of us who leads in a Montessori school in whatever role we have chosen as administrators!
Kathy Minardi has over 40 years experience in school leadership. She leaves her position this June as Head of School at Aidan Montessori School in Washington DC after 17 years to establish Whole School Leadership LLC,a cutting edge consulting practice for schools and leaders who desire a “whole school” systems-oriented approach to working within their community in its unique interconnectedness.
Whole School Leadership Workshop in Conjunction with MAA Retreat
MAA is excited to support founding board member Kathy Minardi’s new venture, Whole School Leadership. WSL’s mission is to inspire leaders to lead with vision, clarity, and courage. To learn more about this unique course and its inaugural cohort, which gathers July 18-21, in Breckenridge, CO, just prior to the MAA retreat, please visit Whole School Leadership or contact Kathy at: firstname.lastname@example.org.