For 2 years I had been the only preschool teacher in my studio.
We all know, I’m sure, that preschool dance teachers are akin to ROCK STARS, literally worshipped by the mini humans that skip into class each week. Christmas gifts are a plenty, as are their generous giving of hugs. At the end of the performance they line up, wide eyed and star struck, accompanied by their proud parents, JUST to have a photo with YOU!
With an increasing demand for my preschool classes, I realised if I wanted to grow my studio and impact more little lives through dance, I had to share some of the load. I worked hard to train and encourage my teachers, ensuring their philosophy and values were aligned, and then, thankfully watched my junior school not only grow, but soar. All of this was fine, UNTIL the day I realised I was no longer THE rock star.
It was several years later, standing on the sidelines at one of my preschool performances, watching little dancers line up and hug ALL of the other teachers. It was the first year I didn’t teach any of them, which meant I was a effectively a no body! “Would you like to have a photo with ME?” I was thinking. “Do you even know who I am!?” I muttered to myself.
This is not good leadership in action.
A good leader should have been delighted that her teachers were so well loved by their students. Part of me really WAS relieved that I no longer had the solo responsibility of teaching all the students and I did truly feel proud that my teachers were so obviously adored. What I hadn’t considered was how insecure it would make me feel.
By digging deeper I painfully revealed to myself I was used to (and enjoyed) feeling important. It was crucial I addressed this, I’d certainly be compromising my leadership ability if I didn’t.
I’d been in various leadership roles since I was 21, and although I realised I still had a lot to learn, I considered myself a good leader. This experience occurred well into my thirties and is one of my most important learnings, and an obvious turning point in my maturity as a leader. Prior, I did all the ‘right’ things – spent time with my direct reports, coached, fostered connections, shared information, taught skills…. but it wasn’t until I addressed my own insecurities that I could fully master the art of enabling and empowering others.
While at a surface level we understand that allowing others to shine, doesn’t dim our own light, it can be uncomfortable to be truly honest with ourselves. Are we invested in letting others shine as long as they don’t outshine us? Do we want them to do well so it makes us look good, or so we as their leaders get the praise and take the credit?
The whole point of leadership is to give the glory to others.
Since this difficult observation and learning, I’ve been far less threatened by the wonderful and varied strengths within my team. Together we have accomplished far more than I could ever do alone.
Together is better.
Jane Grech is the author of Dance Studio Success as well as the owner of the Jane Grech Dance Centre in Adelaide. She is also a loving wife, mother of 3 gorgeous children and our DSOA resident expert when it comes to studio culture and leadership.
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