Understand Your Power

Understand your power and influence.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Teachers, coaches, and leaders understand your power and influence so that you can build the skills within your students, clients, and direct reports. In the first part of my teaching career, I did not truly understand or appreciate the power and influence I had over my students. Statements and comments I made to my students were taken as the honest truth and solid facts. Sure, I had to make things fun and engaging to keep their interest but what I said mattered and counted. My students were influenced by my words by the simple fact that I was their teacher. I held the most power in the room. It was up to me to set the tone for the classroom, help students feel safe and welcomed, and build a sense of belonging. When those basic needs were disrupted, I was the person with the power and ability to respond and make changes to bring our community back to safety and belonging. The students had a part in this but I was the one setting the tone, creating the change, addressing the issues, responding to harm, and more. I remember times when I would complain about a certain composition of students in my class and I would hear colleagues do this, blaming the students for setting the tone and creating the environment. I was forgetting who had the power to create change in that classroom. Me. 

When I became a Division Director in a school, I had the same responsibility as in the classroom. As a leader, I had to set the tone, build the community, adhere to the institution’s mission, and ensure that my direct reports were also living the school’s mission. If something went wrong, I was the person in power to hold people responsible, have the conversation, and face the conflict. 

Now, as an executive coach, I see the influence of my position again. I see clearly that I want to build the skills in my client, rather than tell them what I think is right. This was my job as an educator and a leader as well. I did not want to tell my students how to think, what to think, or how to solve a problem. In the world we live in today it is especially important that our young people know how to think critically, in complicated ways, and to do that, independently, and not just because that’s what my teacher said. I want to ask the right questions so that they can figure out their own approach to the problem. Mistakes, of course, are made along their journey. That is the point. People need to make their own mistakes, create their own processes, and figure out what works best for them. When we as teachers, leaders, and coaches tell our students, direct reports, or clients what to do or what to think we ignore the power and influence we have and do a disservice by robbing them of the opportunity to build skills and think critically and independently.

To understand your power as a teacher, leader, or coach, think about…

  • What is my role here?
  • What is the power I hold? How do I use my influence?
  • What skills do I want to build within this individual or team?
  • How can I teach, lead, and coach responsively so that the people I am responsible for get what they need?
  • Am I using an inquiry approach? What questions and methods get your students, direct reports, and clients to think critically for themselves? 
  • How do I bring curiosity and non-judgment to my practice?

As a teacher, leader, or coach, you have much power. Recognize it, Understand it. Use it well.