As an international education leader with experience leading schools in many different cultural contexts, I have found that sharp leaders are highly perceptive people who tend to pick up on certain things about others that others may miss.
I have simplified these ideas down to eight key things that highly perceptive leaders notice about others:
1. Sharp Leaders Notice People’s Energy and Vibe
Sharp leaders tend to pick up on a person’s energy and vibe immediately. This vague feeling is the spiritual energy that a person puts out subconsciously. Although the vibe may not be something that the person chooses, it can tell you a lot about them, such as whether they are trustworthy or likeable. For example, if a staff member is exhibiting negative energy, a perceptive leader may take the time to have a conversation with them to identify and address the underlying issue.
2. Body Language
Sharp leaders are very attuned to body language, which is often subconscious and can show so much about what someone is thinking, feeling, and projecting into the world. The way someone stands, eye contact, fidgeting, orientation of the body, and so much more can tell us many things about what’s going on inside someone’s psyche. For example, if a staff member is crossing their arms during a meeting, a perceptive leader may acknowledge this and ask if they have any concerns they would like to share.
Micro-expressions are small involuntary expressions that many people miss. Highly perceptive people tend to pick up on these subtle and immediate expressions that someone has, which tend to be extremely rapid and often replaced by the “official” chosen expression someone chooses to portray. For example, if a teacher is showing signs of frustration during a staff meeting, a perceptive leader may follow up with them afterward to check in and offer support.
4. What People Don’t Say to Sharp Leaders
Sharp leaders notice what people don’t say even more than what is said. They can tell when someone is dancing around a subject or avoiding something. When someone is speaking about a subject but conspicuously leaving out an important part of the issue, the perceptive person immediately notices and wonders why. For example, if a staff member seems hesitant to share their opinion during a meeting, a perceptive leader may encourage them to speak up and offer a safe and supportive environment for them to do so.
5. Treatment of Others
A sharp and perceptive leader is able to observe how their colleagues and staff members interact with others, including students, parents, and other staff members. This can be useful in identifying any potential conflicts or issues that may arise. For example, if a staff member consistently speaks rudely to a parent, a perceptive leader may have a conversation with them to address the issue and provide guidance on how to interact more professionally.
6. Core Values Noticed by Sharp Leaders
Highly perceptive people are able to pick up on the core values of others. This is important in the context of educational leadership because understanding the core values of faculty, staff, and students can help to create a more cohesive and collaborative community.
For example, a highly perceptive educational leader may notice that a teacher places a strong emphasis on creativity and innovation in their classroom. This may lead the leader to encourage and support that teacher in developing new and innovative teaching strategies.
Similarly, a highly perceptive leader may notice that a particular student values community service and social responsibility. This may lead the leader to provide opportunities for that student to engage in service learning projects or to connect with community organizations that align with their values.
By understanding the core values of those within the educational community, leaders can create a more meaningful and fulfilling experience for everyone involved.
7. Hidden Fears
Highly perceptive people are able to pick up on the hidden fears of others, even if they are not outwardly displayed. They can sense and detect emotions that may not be openly expressed, and they can recognize patterns in behavior that indicate a deeper underlying fear.
For example, a perceptive school leader may notice that a teacher seems to be reluctant to take on new responsibilities or initiatives, even though they are well qualified and capable. Upon further observation and conversation, the leader may discover that the teacher has a fear of failure and is hesitant to take on anything that might lead to a negative outcome.
By recognizing and acknowledging this hidden fear, the leader can work with the teacher to help them overcome their hesitation and build their confidence. This may involve providing additional support, coaching, or training, or simply helping the teacher to reframe their perspective on failure and risk-taking. By addressing the underlying fear, the leader can help the teacher to unlock their full potential and achieve greater success.
8. The Mask
Sharp leaders notice when people are wearing a mask. They pick up on repressed anger, emotions, and issues bubbling beneath the surface. They can definitely see the pain under the surface of many people’s outer masks that say “thanks, I’m fine.” This may manifest as a staff member putting on a “happy face” when they are actually struggling or hiding their true emotions. A perceptive leader can use this awareness to build trust with their colleagues and staff members and create a supportive work environment where everyone feels comfortable being their
The art of noticing is all about being in the present moment and keeping your eyes open. Highly perceptive people notice the things that many others miss because they pay full attention to the people around them.
The art of noticing comes down to wanting to notice, so keep your eyes open, and you never know what you’ll find.
CEO and Education Expert Greg Parry
Internationally renowned for his expertise in education leadership, Greg Parry’s vast experience includes leadership of projects for education institutions throughout Australia, the Middle East, the United States, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and China. Recognised for his numerous contributions in the education arena, Greg has received the Ministers Award for Excellence in School Leadership based on improvements in school performance and a range of successful principal training and leadership development programs, as well as the School of Excellence Award for Industry/School Partnerships and the School of Excellence Award for Technology Innovation. His company GSE (Global Services in Education) has been recognised as having the Best Global Brand in International Education in 2015 and 2016.
Considered one of the premier experts in his profession, Greg has trained teachers and principals throughout the world in areas such as critical thinking, language development and leadership. His expertise in school start up projects, leadership and curriculum development, has made him a sought after authority in these discipline.
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