True to form as an educator, Dr. Quintin Shepherd prefaces his explanation of the “new language of leadership” with a breakdown of the terminology.
His personal definition of “leadership” is anyone with an influence relationship over someone else. “Anybody can be a leader,” he says. “Teachers are leaders. Principals are leaders. And students. And community members.”
Leadership is a fast and furious role where individuals need to quickly determine how best to talk about challenges and decisions—and this is where the new language comes in.
For complicated decisions (anything with one right answer), the current language of leadership works well because leaders rely on their knowledge and skills to provide a solution.
But when decisions are complex (anything where the right answer is inherently unknowable), the current language is insufficient. The terminology that flows from traditional power dynamics sets leaders apart from those who will be impacted by the decisions—and this is no longer acceptable. We saw this over and over during the COVID pandemic.
Leaders can’t make complex decisions in isolation from those who will be impacted. Instead, Quintin advises taking a compassionate approach, which requires vulnerability and unprecedented access to information. This is where the new language of leadership really pays off.