People Follow People, Not Positions


Think for a moment about a leader, a mentor, or a colleague you admire.

  • What does this person mean to you?
  • What do you know about this person as a leader/worker/ professional?
  • What do you know about this person as a person?
  • What do you know about this person’s life outside of work?

I first became an administrator when I was 29. 29! I was so young!

Because I was so young, I felt it was very important to remain professional at all times with my staff.  I never wore jeans. I followed advice I received from a professor once, who told us that if there is a staff social event, the administrator should be one of the last to arrive and the first to leave. And above all else, I never shared anything personal about myself with staff, especially not in staff meetings or communications.

When I became a principal, my staff was always asking about my family, my life outside of school – they wanted to get to know me. I wanted them to get to know me as a leader and I didn’t think they needed to know anything about the me outside of school.

Boy was I wrong!

As I sit here reading A Leader’s Legacy by Kouzes and Posner, this quote jumped out at me:

“They want to know what drives you, what makes you happy, and what ticks you off… This isn’t about prying. This is about learning to trust.

People follow people, not positions.”

I know this now, many years after my first administrator positions. But I wish I had learned it much earlier on in my career.

Kouzes and Posner share a list of questions that most people want to know when they meet a new leader (their work comes from years of research and study in leadership). The questions include:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you stand for and believe in?
  • Where do you want to take us?
  • Why you?
  • What makes you think you can do this?
  • What changes are you planning to make?

“People always want to know something about the person doing the leading before they’re going to become the person doing the following.”

This is making me reflect on my current relationships with work colleagues, and what they know about me and vice versa. I work to cultivate trusting professional relationships and hope that is evident to others.

How do you help your colleagues get to know you as a person and as a leader?

When you start a new position, how you let others see what kind of leader you are?


About Amy's Reflections

Director of Educational Services in Southern CA, taking time to reflect on leadership and learning
This entry was posted in Leadership and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to People Follow People, Not Positions

  1. Mari Venturino says:

    Thank you for this post! I find it important that I know the people I work with as people, not just as by their job. You are transparent, and do the same thing at the district level, and I really admire that quality in you.
    I think others at the Teacher Leadership Academy would appreciate reading this. Can I make a shared resources Padlet or hashtag?

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