Teacher Profile: Ms. Howard

Katie Wight, Staff Writer

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  1. What does leadership mean to you?

“Leadership means to me the willingness to use your knowledge and personal charisma in order to allow your peers and the people around you to go in a way that you feel, or collectively you feel is best.”

2.What strengths do you believe you have as a leader? Weaknesses?

“I think one of the strengths that I have as a leader is that I am a critical thinker with really good rhetorical skills so I can make compelling arguments in order to convince people to come my way. I’m also really receptive to people’s emotional needs and so I try not to abuse that ability. One of my weaknesses I think is sometimes I feel self doubt and yet I don’t want the people following me to see that and so I have to grapple with that privately in order to do a very public leadership role.”

3.What or who has been your greatest influence as a leader?

“I think some of my greatest influences as a leader intellectually are writers like James Baldwin; people who are willing to take risks in what they say and how they say it and to whom they say it in the service of truth and in the service of progress.”

4.Leaders make other people feel strong and confident. What do you do to help others feel this way?

“I try to imbue people with a sense of self efficacy that they can do it and I constantly reinforce that. I give them feedback and let them know when they’re doing well but also constructive criticism in order to help them do better.”

  1. What are three or four actions you believe are essential to enable others to be successful?

“I think some actions that enable others to be successful are honestly, consistency. Doing something consistently at the same time with consistent effort, with fidelity; another one is self reflection. You need to stop and check to see whether or not you’re getting the results that you want and also, probably one of the most important is looking at models and templates for success. What did these people do? What can you do similarly or at least adapt it to your own personality in order to go? Most roads are already forged; you just have to travel that road but if you find that you can’t go through, you have to maybe hack your way and forge a new road and be a leader and a pioneer on that journey. And if you can’t go over, go through.”

6. Describe a time you took a leadership position when you did not have the title of leader.

“When I was in the Marine Corps, it was really important that we learned let’s say, our ranks as non-commission officers, as enlisted service people and there were a bunch of 18 to 22 year-old young Marines and we were really buckling down trying to learn this and even at 17/18 years old, I knew how to teach and I took it upon myself to do study sessions and give them mnemonic devices so that they could learn our rank and I was commended for it by my drill instructors in teaching all the other people in my bunk the knowledge that we needed to be Marines.”

  1. What is the most difficult part of being a leader?

“I think one of the most difficult parts of being a leader honestly is not getting your feelings heard if not everyone wants to follow you. Understanding that other people have different perspectives and just because it’s different doesn’t mean that they’re wrong. Being a good leader means you also have to listen as follow as well; consider other people’s view point. I think if you use as a mantra you know “this is not about me, it’s about us” it’s not about me, it’s about us. Then you can do what’s good for all instead of trying to feed your ego. It’s a pitfall.”

  1. How do you lead through change?

“It’s really funny you should ask that considering that one of my cornerstones of leadership is consistency. I think you lead through change by being adaptable because all circumstances change and I don’t think you can step into the same river twice, not everybody’s the same person every day depending on their mood, depending on what their wants or needs are in that moment and so as situations change, as people change, if you stay malleable and adaptable, then you can roll with that change but still have the same goal at the end. I think change is inevitable, that’s a cliché. It is inevitable, that’s actually one of my weak points is that it is very difficult for me to adapt quickly; it takes me half a beat behind but then I do and then I’m fine.”

  1. How do you go about resolving conflict?

“I think one of the ways that I resolve conflict is I approach it head-on because I have a sort of, not self-deprecating but I try to put myself second in an empathetic way. If my ego’s not involved then it does not hurt to actually approach things that may cause a conflict; talking to someone to try to resolve something quickly. Quickly is: “time is of the essence”. Do it when you first identify a problem. Letting it fester, I think makes it get bigger and bigger and worse and so trying to approach it quickly and with the idea that the other person could be right. So as long as you have that knowledge and that idea that the other person could be right, then I think it’s a good way to resolve conflict quickly.”

10.What leadership style do you use?

“I think I fluctuate between cooperative leadership and sage on the stage. I’m a font of knowledge, I used to be called a walking encyclopedia so I know a lot of things about a lot of things and yet I also try to exercise sophic irony. I may pretend that I don’t know something in order to give people the opportunity to find out for themselves because there’s a difference between someone pouring water into a vessel top down versus a well-spring filling it up from the bottom up and I think the well-spring is richer and more consistent. I think people hold it a lot more if it’s a natural process versus someone just pouring their ideas and their viewpoints into a vessel.”

Reflection

After my interview with Ms. Howard, I’ve learned how much responsibility, patience, focus and determination it takes to be a leader and a role model. Leadership should be natural and flowing, not with force, anger and frustration. While you may doubt yourself or feel insecure, you have to remember that “it’s not about me, it’s about us.” Another example of a good leader is someone who is consistent and knows how to resolve conflict in a quick and painless way. A leader should know when to take two steps forward but also when to take one step back; how to lead in a way influences people with your own charisma but not manipulate them. Finally, a leader should know how to listen and follow as well as lead.

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Teacher Profile: Ms. Howard