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Five top tips to improve the leader in you

Leadership in ELTJudy is Director of Studies at Oxford House Barcelona  Her role at the school is to make sure that things go as well as possible and that the students are happy with their classes and their progress. She is originally from Royal Leamington Spa in England. She moved to Barcelona in 2012 to complete the Trinity CertTESOL course, and then went on to take the Trinity DipTESOL course in 2016. She recently completed the Leadership in ELT course and in this blog post she gives her top five tips to improve the leader in you (or your staff!)


Leaders are born and not made right? Wrong. Yes, it might be true that certain personality traits can lend themselves to a successful leader but there are many different leadership styles. This means when you ask yourself ‘do I have what it takes to be a leader?’ the answer is there is a wealth of behavioral options we can choose to employ in the workplace.

Here are five top tips you can start putting into practice to change up your leadership game.

1. Know yourself:

Before you can adequately lead others it is a good idea to turn the microscope on ourselves and find out what makes you tick. That is of course in relation to how you conduct yourself at work and manage your relationships. Going online and taking a personality test will help you to identify how you handle situations in the moment. There’s no one result which is better or worse than the other, there are simply different approaches to the same situation. Perhaps you will find yourself compared to Mother Teresa, JFK, Lincoln or even Stalin.  If, like myself, you find yourself being compared to someone like Stalin it is not implying you approach managerial decisions like a dictator but that you are not afraid of confrontation. This is one trait that a leader can have but it is not obligatory, find out who you are and recognize what qualities you already possess.

leadership in elt

2. Balancing your Leader and Manager style:

‘What is the difference between a leader and a manager?’ Or a better question might be ‘What are the different managerial or leading qualities that we possess?’ No one in a position of authority is just a manager or just a leader. It is the right balance and combination of the two that we should be aiming towards. A leader thinks about the possibilities and new visions whereas the manager side of us might be more concerned with setting and monitoring goals and controlling the situation. It is vital to allow both sides to shine through for success both in the short term and the long.

3. Communicating with others:

In a leadership/managerial position chances are, you’ll have a significant amount of time in contact with colleagues and employees. Being able to effectively communicate with the people around you is a sign of a definitive leader. It is key to consider three factors when addressing someone in an employer/employee environment.

  1. Place – Selecting the appropriate place to conduct a conversation of course depends on the content or reason for the interaction in the first place. Consider how different a conversation can be when held in a corridor in between classes verses being in a classroom with the door closed. Be aware of the message you are sending from the location of the meeting.
  2. Time – We all have that colleague who loves to chat and it can be impossible to cut things short with them. An easy fix to this is predicting how long the conversation will take and setting those parameters at the beginning of the conversation. This can be as easy as saying ‘I have 10/15/20 minutes before I have to…’ This not only ensures that the conversation does not continue without an end point but will also help you to organize and prioritize what you want to say.
  3. Manner – Can you ask yourself ‘Does this need to be done face-to-face or by email?’ Maybe a phone call or an instant message might be the more appropriate ‘manner’ to conduct the conversation. On the other hand it is equally important to wonder whether written communication will convey exactly what you what to express and so come to the conclusion that an in-person chat is the way to go.

4. Time management:

Just because you say you don’t have time for something doesn’t mean it’s true. It is in fact much more accurate to say you have decided to do something else with your time. Steven Covey shows us that in order to be successful at time management we need to identify the important aspects in life that we spend our precious time on.

We must first attend to these needs before other less important things. By doing this we will find that not only are we able to take care of the big things, but then also the little things. It is not about sacrificing one for the other but analyzing the urgency and fundamental needs for one thing over the other.

5. Learn to listen:

Listening to the people around us is a fundamental skill that should be strengthened and practiced. It can be argued that there are five stages of listening and choosing the right one can be the crux of a successful interaction. The first three are probably best to be avoided. First up we have ignoring. Enough said. Following that we have pretend listening or patronizing. Not exactly a winning strategy for a successful conversation. Then comes selective listening, where the listener picks and chooses what they want to hear.

The top two stages are attentive and empathetic respectively. Attentive listening allows the speaker to know you are paying attention to what they are saying. So what I’m saying is, summarizing what your counterpart has already said is a sure fire way to let them know you are actively listening to them. Attentive listening paves the way for the top tier: empathic listening. Which as the name suggests is responding to the interaction with empathy for the speaker. Employing these top two tiers of listening when communicating with collegues and employees will help you connect with them and really appreiciate what they are saying.

There is no complete formula to make a great leader, but there are ways we can approach situations which garner more positive results. Trying to implement some of these tips in your leadership setting could be a foolproof way to see improvements.

If you would like to bring out the leader in you or your staff and receive some practical training to help you adapt to a new ELT management role, find out more about our Leadership in ELT course or get in touch for more information.

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