Transition is a time for reflection. Inspired by Matt Cutt’s TED Talk and my 16 year-old’s setting of “streaks” in terms of behaviour change, this month (August 2017) I have pledged to write a blog post everyday. I am starting with why I subtitled my blog “Adventures in School Leadership.”
This blog started 10 years ago, shortly before I got my first Headship and while I was still a Deputy. At that time I had recently become a school governor and was starting to develop my practice as a coach for colleagues’ professional development. In the intervening period I have worked at 3 schools, 2 as Head, been through 5 inspections (3 independent school, 2 OfSTED), elected as a chair of governors myself and worked with 5 chairs of governing bodies through my headships.
In this time I have had the opportunity to experience, develop and reflect on leadership in schools, both state and independent. I have listened to and learned from leaders in a wide range of commercial and educational settings. And I have grown a network of friends and colleagues across education, business and sport, all of whom have helped me, directly or indirectly, to find better ways to lead the schools with which I have been involved.
So to get the the “streak” started, here is why I called this blog “Adventures…”
An Exciting or Very Unusual Experience
To be involved with the education of young people is a privilege. Therefore, to be a school leader is the most exciting opportunity of all. You have the chance to influence the direction of your school, to develop and structure provision and build and grow teams of people to deliver exceptional experiences (from school lunches to science lessons) for the pupils in their care.
It is unusual because it moves you away from the reason you came into the profession in the first place – to teach children in a classroom. The influence, therefore, is less direct, less immediate and other skills and attributes are required (more in subsequent posts) in order to establish and realise improvement in learning for the children – who now number a whole school-full, not just your class or year group.
With this whole school focus – and this applies to senior leaders, not only heads – you are tasked with taking the entire community (or at least large parts of it) with you. This requires the ability to communicate vision and demonstrate to people that your enterprise is one that is leading to greater improvement and success in children’s outcomes.
At the heart of great school leadership is the influence of others, enabling them to travel towards the goals that you have set – hopefully with their prior input! The leadership adventure requires a spirit and a sense of collective purpose.
Children, colleagues, governors, parents. One can’t be all things to all people and this brings risks and some hazards. The adventure in leadership can stall if you fail to attend to your relationships across the stakeholder groups. Therefore it is a bold undertaking to manage the risks, to work transparently and face-to-face with everyone, adapting and nuancing your style to ensure that you grow and sustain the necessary credibility and respect.
Yet you are alone in many respects and you have the responsibility to take action – that’s your job – to minimise the hazards you may be leading your colleagues to face. Clarity of direction, the establishment of coherent, but flexible, plans, clear KPIs and relentless support for all will allow your outcomes to be more certain!