Which Way?

This week school got back underway and the understanding that school leadership is all about people and relationships has never been clearer.  Yet the challenge, as always, is to sustain and develop the school and its community. So what keeps you going and in which direction?

The spaces in school are filled with the usual happy, smiley faces of children, parents and colleagues. But, as we all know, all is not complete and unblemished sweetness and light. There will always be anxieties, worries and concerns throughout the community and embracing this reality, focusing on support is the start of the process that leads to a more authentic leadership.

Reading Simon Sinek recently, discovering Adam Grant’s “Give and Take” and returning to HBR’s “In Praise of the Incomplete Leader” came at the end of a summer continuing to consider how leadership works best. It resulted in reflections on some lessons learned and established way markers for further thought and development.

Have Confidence: not the arrogant confidence of those who believe they have all the answers, but the resilience and faith in yourself to be able to listen, reflect, discuss, plan and act.  Confidence can, and should, be infectious.

Be Faithful: As Simon Sinek notes MLK had “a dream”, he didn’t suggest that he had “a plan.”  Although people around you will want to know what your plan is, you are carrying the hopes and fears of others and they will need to know you will hold firm to the route you map out at the start of the journey.

Embrace Paradox: Betina von Stamm outlines 6 paradoxes in leadership.  Included in this is that old adage “you can only please some of the people some of the time”.  Anyone who can find a solution to this conundrum is destined for immortality.  However the first of Alistair Smith’s 5C’s – relentless pursuit of your core purpose – is perhaps the first step to take.  Whether pleasing to others or not, sticking faithfully to your aims can balance the contradictions encountered in the differing viewpoints across the community.

Take Care: of others, of course, that is your purpose as a leader, but of yourself too.  Despite the need to strive for a professional approach, leadership is a very personal activity.  The brickbats and bouquets that one receives take you on a roller-coaster ride through emotional states and coping with these with grace and humility is so very important.  Whether this is through association with peers, mindfulness and meditation or the displacement activity in support of lower league football, balance in all things has to be one of the goals of leadership.

Having now – after nearly 6 years – quite possibly moved out of the “early headship” phase, my aim is to explore how these way-markers (and others emerging or shared by others) can play a part in continuing the adventure and add to the learning!