In 17 years of formal schooling, not once did someone teach me how to teach others. Yet, teaching others is what society is all about.
Early physicians taught others about the fundamental laws of our universe, and that in turn inspired others to learn more and teach their insights to others as well. Knowledge and skills progress because as a society we take time to teach each other. However, a society is large enough that not everyone needs to pay attention to teaching in order for the society to progress.
What leaders need to acknowledge–in any industry and any job–is that they are in fact teachers and coaches first and foremost. At Jamba Juice the other day I noticed the shift manager explaining to an employee how he might operate the cash register more efficiently. She may have been acting instinctively, but what she was doing was building the skill set of her team. The result: less work on her part down the line.
Sure, it makes sense that skill sets should trickle downward in organizations as people need to learn to climb the ranks, but presuming that teaching should come from leaders and that leaders should be the shift manager or the boss or the CEO is wrong. Yes, leaders should teach — in fact I’d argue that you can’t lead without it. The problem comes from our misconception that the manager is the only leader in the room.
Leadership isn’t a title, it is an action. Everyone has the chance to lead in their own way. Now let’s imagine an organization or a society where everyone is sharing what they’ve learned and spreading knowledge laterally. A company that fosters cross-functional learning is going to move so much more quickly than one that waits for knowledge to trickle down.
If you’re a leader, teach. And the first thing you should teach is how to teach.
While teaching middle school isn’t a respected job like it should be, you are still a teacher, whatever your role is.
Get out there and teach!