Since I stepped down from headship in 2010 I have done quite a bit of work with serving and aspiring educational leaders at all levels. It has been a privilege to support them, and to help them to prepare for the next level of responsibility, if that is what they choose. And it’s been especially fascinating, over the past twelve months, to see how leaders of all kinds have stepped up to the challenge of navigating the pandemic.
Leadership is about building the capacity and confidence of others through a judicious balance of support and constructive challenge, in order to enable them to be their professional best.
Leaders do this through building positive, mutually respectful relationships; committing to the most effective communication; and taking appropriate action, which is based on sound judgement, grounded in our knowledge of people and our understanding of context. Leaders need to lift us up, not to grind us down, especially in the toughest times. We do this through preparing them to step up, not just by protecting them.
Leadership isn’t about a badge or a title; it’s about positive influence, seeing the best in others, whether colleagues or pupils, and ensuring they see you see it, and value it, and use it for the good of the team as a whole. Leaders can come from anywhere in an organisation. All teachers lead learning in their classrooms. Support staff use leadership strategies in the fulfilment of their different responsibilities. Some of those we work with then also choose to take on specific responsibility for leading other staff. Building the leadership capacity of everyone across the organisation is therefore always going to be a good investment.
Geoff Barton, the General Secretary of ASCL, in an article in the Guardian in May 2020, said this:
‘My hope is that we will come out of this more strongly demonstrating that it’s the human stuff that matters in education – the relationships, the socialisation of young people, the sense of an older generation preparing the next generation to take their place.’
So think about ‘the human stuff’ – in your relationships with colleagues and learners, and in the contribution your school makes within its community. How can a commitment to ‘the human stuff’ help you to ensure that your leadership continues to be strong and principled?
This year, the best leaders I have seen – leading learning and pupil support; leading academic and pastoral teams; senior leaders with whole-school responsibility; heads and principals; those leading groups of schools; and governors – have exhibited some of the following leadership behaviours:
Very best wishes as you face your ongoing professional challenges, and take full advantage of the opportunities these challenges present.
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