FRISCO, Texas — In the last session at the Transporting Students with Disabilities and Special Needs (TSD) Conference, Anthony Pollard, transportation supervisor for Baldwin County Public Schools in Alabama, encouraged attendees to get out of their seats and interact with the other leaders in the room.
He said during the Monday presentation that the first step to being a leader is to find confidence — when speaking with drivers, administration and external customers is paramount in student transportation. However, Pollard added that leaders should also be living up to their promised service.
Leaders must walk the walk, he explained. To demonstrate what this means, he pulled people from the audience and handed them a wrestling title belt. He asked those attendees to walk confidently around the room when “their song” was played through the loudspeaker. He encouraged the attendees to walk in with confidence and take control of the room, which they did.
Another excise that Pollard demonstrated was how to create a “monster.” He scattered Legos and Play-Doh across the room and asked attendees to use the tools to create a monster that best reflected themselves. After they made their monster, they had to swap it with the monster that someone else created. Pollard asked the audience what they thought of the monster they were given. Often, the people who created the monster and those that were explaining it to others saw two different creatures.
“Everyone sees things differently,” Pollard summarized.
He explained seven leadership styles and provided real-world examples of each style.
- Autocratic: A leader who sees themselves as the smartest in the room, for example, Adolf Hitler.
- Authoritative: A leader who is a visionary, sets expectations and engages teams along the way, e.g., Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, and Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia.
- Pacesetting: A very driven leader who is a hard-working pacesetter, for example, Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric.
- Democratic: A leader who is most likely to ask, “What do you think?” and shares information with teams, e.g., former President Dwight Eisenhower and Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa.
- Coaching: A leader who recognizes talent in others that needs to be developed, Such as Mahatma Gandhi.
- Affiliative: A leader who puts people first and takes a personal interest in their well-being, like the Dalai Lama, the highest spiritual leader of Tibet.
- Laissez-Faire: A leader who provides little to no oversight. This style works if you already lead quality people, for example, Herbert Hoover, the 31st U.S. president.
“Good leaders have aspects of all these [styles],” he said, adding that leaders should be able to recognize when they need to shift from one leadership style to another.
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He continued to discuss powerful leadership traits and asked the audience to share what they think makes a good leader, and why certain characteristics are important. Once again, he had the audience get together, and this time create a monster that reflected all the leadership qualities they found important.
Audience members shared traits like being a good listener, wearing multiple hats, and remaining grounded as important leadership traits.