Bold Leadership

Of all industries, education needs bold leadership.

Of all industries, education has lacked bold leadership in the past. Where will the bold leadership come from if there is inadequate attention to leadership in the profession. Education is no more guilty than many other professions that it takes some of its best practitioners (teachers) and promotes them in to roles that require a completely different set of skills and competencies – with no certainty that they have those skills and competencies, are ready and able to develop them or real, cohesive support to acquire them.

The last point may be the real issue. In the same way that there is all too often a hangover from past views of collegiality that suggest that how a teacher taught was his/ her own business, so the prevalence of idiosyncratic leadership styles and methods is almost part of the folklore in the education profession. If we are really serious about change in education, then we have to pay serious attention to the leadership skills of our leaders at all levels in our schools.

Here is a really interesting webinar recording from Zenger Folkman. They have a history of gathering vast amounts of data and evidence through 360 degree feedback processes and then analysing it for the lessons that can be drawn about all aspects of what makes leadership most effective – and especially what leaders need to do more of/ less of;

Zenger Folkman – Webinar – Bold Leadership

As well as the webinar, the page also has a number of other links to very useful and worthwhile materials.

Until we really address these issues of leadership, we are going to see schools vulnerable too often to issues in the leadership. This is especially important in the light of some research I saw a few years ago that suggested that, by some margin, the impact of good or great leadership in schools was of greater significance than differences in leadership in other types of organisation or company. In other words, when our leaders lack some of the fundamental skills of leadership the negative impact is greater.

And yet, as a profession, do we really pay adequate attention to the development of leadership skills. In my experience, when you look at the professional development made available for educational leaders, too much of it is focused on educational pedagogy and practices than on their leadership skills, reflective awareness and continuous development in this area.

Maybe one good piece of news coming out of the Zenger Folkman research is that women in leadership score higher on key aspects of bold leadership than men, considering the educational field has a higher than normal level of females in leadership. However, this is still leaving way too much to chance.

One of the issues that I see standing out way too often is the ‘one size fits all’ approaches to leadership – Principals and senior school leaders who have a limited range of responses to situations that they wheel out in response to all the situations they deal with. Schools are busy and hectic places and when things are happening rapidly leaders often don’t have much time in the moment to stop and reflect. therefore, they ‘act’ often very intuitively. This is not a problem if, at other times, the habits have been built to have a broader variety of tools in the toolkit. Then, intuition leads to the selection of the right tools to fit the situation more often.

With this in mind, I was reminded, this weekend, by the values of the Ken Blanchard Situational leadership model, as a result of seeing this excellent webinar recording;

Ken Blanchard Companies – Webinar – Creating an Effective Leadership Development Curriculum

Education has an inclination to be summative – to focus on the outcomes that we want (exam results, how students turn out etc.) Along the way, we need to put far more emphasis on the processes by which goals are achieved. This is where leadership development becomes so very critical. We need to be sure that leadership will happen in ways that are most effective to deal with any particular set of circumstances. We need to put considerable stress on developing good coaching and mentoring skills, whilst acknowledging that this is not simply meant to replace one always used leadership style with another. There are times when it’s right and times when it’s wrong to coach.

Better leadership leads to more engaged employees, which leads to better learning experiences for children and better parent relationships. These, ultimately, are the best ways to ensure long term and consistent achievement of strong student learning outcomes, development of strong and enduring school cultures and schools that learn and enable learning.

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Inspiring Leaders

Want to take in a few new ideas on leadership? Looking for inspiration or ways to raise your game to the next level?

Here’s a pretty good list of the 30 leadership writers who are currently considered to be most inspiring and having the biggest impact in the world:

Global Gurus – World’s Top 30 Leadership Professionals for 2016

I’m not sure I wholly agree with the list. For example, I think Robin Sharma a bit too ‘light weight’ to be taken seriously in this company whilst Dr Stephen Covey is still having a massive impact, even after his death, as is Peter Drucker. I also don’t agree with the suggestion that Tom Peters and Jim Collins are mainly only known about in America.

Nevertheless, a good starting point list for anyone looking for ideas.

New Leadership

When we have so many concerns about the mismatch between school education on offer today and the needs of young people, we have to acknowledge that little is really going to improve until we are prepared to look very seriously at leadership within education. In short, will we have the schools and the education we need and want unless we bring about significant changes in schools’ leadership culture – and what are the changes that would be necessary?

I found this article from a senior member of the Ken Blanchard Companies interesting. Whilst its talking about the new ways of leading required in all types of organisations (especially those that need to harness the creative and innovative power of the employees – is that now all organisations?) I found some parts especially interesting when thinking about where we are currently in school education.

Ken Blanchard Companies – Unleashing The Crazy Ones

The article identifies three core roles for the leader; catalyst, architect and coach. The latter of the three is something I’ve believed in for some considerable time as an effective approach to leadership in schools. I think part of the appeal has to do with the importance of the first of the three roles. Directive, controlled leadership that centralises power and authority, decision-making and accountability doesn’t ‘grow people’ or have the potential to engender passion, commitment and true innovation.

The ‘abundance mindset’ talked of doesn’t just apply with the organisation’s own employees, but also with outside vendors and contractors. As time goes on I have found myself less and less interested in squeezing out the best price or a bit of cost saving (scarcity mindset), and more and more interested in building high-trust relationships with vendors and suppliers that are mutually beneficial and based upon the willingness of the vendor to work creatively and effectively to support what the schools deliver.

The second role – the ‘architect’ is undoubtedly the most important when it comes to change management, innovation and educational reform. This is the one that potential worries me the most. I see far too much ‘going through the motions’, replicating yesterdays schools and just trying to do everything they did. It’s often considered innovation and commitment if leaders in schools just seek to do the same old, but to do it 1% better. However, I don’t believe these are the approaches that are going to bring us the schools and the education we need today and tomorrow. That is going to require the courage and commitment to lead teams that think in new ways, are willing to try new things and are not afraid to sometimes fail.

One particular area where this is apparent is in the harnessing of technology and ICT to bring about fundamental changes in learning processes.

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