“I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.” Richard II, Act 5, Scene 5
The optimal school leader is proactive, personable and pragmatic. The common theme throughout these qualities is time. A proactive leader ensures that deadlines are adhered to and best laid-plans are not forgotten. They are willing to make time for others, listen attentively and take onboard contrasting viewpoints. Pragmatism means they can prioritise the most important tasks to hand and make sensible decisions.
In over 40 years in education, I have been led by others, and I have led others. I have studied leadership, and I have experienced both good and poor leadership. I have worked for leaders, and worked with leaders. As a leader I have made mistakes and learnt from them, and I have learnt from the mistakes made by other leaders.
“What do you want to achieve as a school leader? What traits will you focus on?” For me, when considering the traits that foster good leadership, you need to start by really considering the people you work with. I saw this quote on Dr. Marcia Tate’s Twitter feed yesterday, and I think it says it all. Good leadership needs to have an outward focus where we as school leaders are always looking to empower and encourage others.
Heading up a team of 20 people you’ve never met before and leading them into a world that you barely understand can teach you a lot about leadership. As we arrived in Kathmandu, ready to continue the training of teachers in Nepal, only a handful of our self-funded volunteers had any experience of teaching. Nobody knew who I was or why I was qualified to be running the show. The volunteers ranged from 17-year-old sixth formers to 60+ year old librarians. We also had well-established teachers, and one headteacher who I had viewed as a heroine and force of nature for quite some time. This was going to be a challenge.
How do teachers really know that what’s happening in their school is making a difference? Are school leaders as effective as they can be? How can they be confident that their teachers are having the biggest impact possible, and how can school business managers effectively support all of this? With these issues in mind, the Schools, Students and Teachers (SSAT) network will be holding the SSAT National Conference 2017 in Manchester, which will be taking place from 30th November to 1st December.
Having worked as a teacher, middle leader and a coach within education, I have seen various performance management processes with a wide range of line managers and staff. I have had the pleasure of working with experienced teachers, NQTs, underperformers, outstanding staff, coasting staff and ambitious professionals. Each have proved to be excellent learning opportunities!
I come to write this piece after a brief Twitter exchange, a shared appreciation of the 1998 Coen brothers cult classic The Big Lebowski, with Innovate My School editor James Cain, Emerging from our ensuing conversation was the idea of an article to explore what lessons in leadership, if any, might be gleaned from Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski. Despite my love of the movie, and my interest in leadership lessons from art as well as life, at first it felt a little like scraping the bottom of the metaphor barrel. However, after some reflection, I came to the conclusion that perhaps there is something in the movie that may be worth sharing...
At the third national #WomenEd unconference in Sheffield, Amy Jeetley spoke about how brilliant teachers don’t always make brilliant leaders. I absolutely agree, and would say that although the skills are in some ways related (getting the best from the students you teach/getting the best from the colleagues you lead), leadership demands something specific from us. Working with and through other adults is a challenge of a different nature to being an excellent classroom practitioner. So what is it that DOES make for effective educational leadership at all levels (middle leadership, senior leadership, headship, executive headship), and what are the tools every leader needs to have in their toolkit and draw on?
Leadership – an interesting word with many connotations. Throughout my teaching career, I have experienced a range of leadership styles. Holistic. Volatile. Aggressive. Manipulative. The one thing they all had in common was the fact they were not role models. They didn’t inspire any interest for me to become, or in fact, believe I could be a leader. I didn’t fit the mould:
Teachers, school leaders and independent educators will be heading to Loughborough University London on 11th November for InnovateEdTech 2017. What’s more, organisers InnovateEvents are offering Innovate My School readers a 25% discount on both teacher and non-teacher ticket prices. Just use the code “IMS25” when you check out on the ticket page to get the discount.