The link above will take you to an excellent post on leadership. It makes you realise how complex an issue this can be. At present in education, especially Welsh Medium, we have a shortage of leaders. This is beginning to be replicated in English Medium and is a matter that requires investment and attention at a National level.
I discovered this cartoon about the type of leaders that are prevalent in all walks of life and two of my colleagues asked, which one am I? Well, quite simply each one. At some point in my life I have adapted my leadership skills according to the needs of the situation.
When I opened Ysgol Gymraeg Cwm Derwen, it was with the realisation that a vision was required in order to establish the success of a brand new school. I placed teaching and learning at the heart of the community and made sure that all the stakeholders supported and carried the ethos forward. As well as teaching and learning central to my belief was the importance of creating pupils with the skills to become active members of society, to believe in themselves and to understand the importance of values. One of the best events that I have held was choosing the values that would be taught and celebrated in the school.
A good leader in education today needs to know how to prioritise effectively. This involves creating strategic plans that will drive your vision and priorities forward. Your self evaluation isn’t a tool for inspectors, it should be an active working document that continually identifies the strengths of a school and the way to improve. If this is in place then the next step is quite simple, put the priorities into an action plan that is shared by all stakeholders. Learning to share these responsibilities is essential to the monitoring and evaluative process required to measure progress against targets. An Operator is therefore a crucial type of leadership required in education today.
When presenting an idea or a way forward, on occasions you will have to compromise. Very often the choice is dependent on the importance of the issue under discussion. What is crucial to this type of leadership is also knowing when not to compromise. If a decision is required the key is to make sure that meetings do not always turn into a talking shop. Set parameters in your mind on which you are prepared to compromise however you should also set a time scale for discussion so that a decision is reached.
On occasions, whether it comes naturally or not, you are going to have to lay down the rules. Sometimes things will happen in a school that are simply not acceptable and it is on these occasions that decisions are non negotiable. It happens and leaders must realise that although you might want to be everyone’s friend, ultimately leadership can be a very lonely place. When hard decisions are required the one measure that I maintain in my mind are the needs of the pupils. Is my decision supporting the needs of every single pupil? Quite simply, when making hard choices never lose sight of the children.
5) Cheer Leader
Every single day, the well being of pupils and staff are in your hands. The most difficult aspect of leadership can often be the need to maintain the morale of the staff. As you enter the school, if they sense that you are not in a good mood then this can impact on the whole day. It reminds me of a programme that used to be on television, ‘Bagpuss‘ (Picture at the top of the post). When Bagpuss fell asleep, all the mice on the mouse organ fell asleep. In a similar process when a Headteacher approaches the day with a smile then all the staff and pupils feel more confident about the day ahead. Leaving your own personal baggage behind as you enter the school gates is often one of the most challenging aspects of leadership.
This type of leadership has two elements in my opinion. Firstly, not every decision is your own and you can often find yourself reiterating national and local authority priorities as part of your strategic plan. Sometimes these might not be the direction in which you want to travel but you will have no choice.
Secondly, I have found that a school priority might often need to be repeated until the message is unequivocally accepted and acted upon. Well, in this situation you will often think that you are a parrot and often your salvation can be found in minutes kept from previous meetings.
I prefer to reach decisions and avoid too much time wasted on discussions but on occasions a good discussion can lead to brilliant results. One such example is when discussing teaching and learning. Sometimes it is good to encourage staff to join in and take the opportunity to share ideas. It is important not to be a windbag all of the time.
A good leader sets the priorities, delegates responsibilities effectively and encourages, motivates and monitors progress. Every now and then a change in direction will be required and that is what makes a good coach, to know when to make the difficult decisions. Think of sports coaches, Warren Gatland will change the emphasis of his team by bringing on substitutes according to the needs and progress of his team during a game. In many ways, these skills are required in all areas of leadership.
Ultimately, I’m therefore all 8 types but I would like to share a few quotes about leadership that will hopefully provide you with food for thought,
‘No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or to get all the credit for doing it.’
‘I start with the premise that the function Of leadership is to produce more leaders and not more followers.’