Coaching & Leadership Development
3 Things every Headteacher must Learn

3 Things every Headteacher must Learn

  I have witnessed many a Headteacher brim with pride on appointment to their post; whether it be a first headship, second or third, there is always a sense of something great having been achieved.   This pride often stems from an acknowledgment of the personal journey many have travelled to arrive at that place. It also stems from a hope and optimism about what they can achieve for the children and young people they have chosen to serve.   Something that I have also witnessed is how ill-prepared our system is for properly equipping Heads, with the skills and knowledge for understanding the personal growth process that accompanies Headship. Scant attention is given to the psychological and emotional terrain that all will have to cross in order to successfully navigate the many challenges of the role.   Lessons which should be shared with all Headteachers are often ignored and many Heads are left none the wiser, until crisis hits and they are forced by circumstance to ask;   “What else do I need to learn, so that I can engage with this role in a way that sustains my sense of purpose and who I am as a person?”   Through coaching Headteachers, I have identified three key lessons that are essential for Heads searching to find an answer to this question…   1. Headship cannot be survived by staying on the surface of things   My observation is that Headship takes you to places inside yourself that you have never been to before. Heads have to get used to experiencing Headship from the inside out; instead of...
4 Things than can Hinder School Improvement

4 Things than can Hinder School Improvement

  There are many challenges to bringing a School Development Plan (SDP) to life and ensuring that priorities are owned and meticulously followed through by all relevant parties.   It’s easy to understand, how within the busyness of school-life, many can mistakenly assume, that a well written SDP, backed up with numerous sets of data will secure a school’s progress and increase levels of performance.   If that were true, many a school leader would find the whole task of school improvement relatively easy. They’d never worry, ruminate over errors made or worry about the next OFSTED visit. They’d just write the SDP, give it to others to read and feel safe in the knowledge that teachers would complete every action detailed within the plan and improvements would follow in simple, predictable, sequential steps. But… we know, schools are busy places and life in schools just isn’t like that!   Senior school leaders know this and recognise that they have a critical role to play in the execution of the SDP and how it is received by others. Those that fare well are aware of how their actions can either hinder or facilitate school improvement. Their self-awareness is such that their skill in managing inter-personal relationships becomes a key determinant for the degree to which staff engage with the school’s priorities for improvement and their own roles and responsibilities.   In essence, they know that success very much depends on them not doing four of these key things when leading and managing others…   1. Being ambiguous about expectations   Individuals like to know where they stand. Ambiguity over...
What is the role of a Headteacher?

What is the role of a Headteacher?

  Recently a colleague shared with me, that when the Masai Warriors of Kenya greet each other they ask, “How are the children?”    They ask this, because for everyone, even those without children, the response that they are seeking is, “All the children are well.” As according to their social script, things can’t be fully good for one individual or the community unless all the children are thriving.   Mac Macartney speaks of something similar when he recounts the symbolic lighting of the “Children’s Fire” amongst the indigenous people of North America. Mac says:   “I was introduced to the Children’s Fire one night as we sat outdoors by a blazing fire. Since that time, it has become the cornerstone of my thinking about leadership.  Many hundreds of years ago, wise women and men, elders of a people who had been enquiring into profound questions concerning leadership, asked the question: “How shall we govern our people?”   One of the great challenges which these elders explored was the complex relationship between the short and long term. It was understood that actions which yield short-term benefits may not always serve the interests of the tribe in the long-term.    Further understanding that the children represented the tribe’s capacity to survive into the future. They understood the necessity of ensuring that the leaders always sought to secure a safe future for the children by testing every major decision against the future wellbeing of the children.   Knowing the power of symbolism, the chiefs ordered that a small fire be kindled in the centre of their council circle. This small fire was called...
The Inner Work of a School Leader

The Inner Work of a School Leader

This blog comes from International speaker, writer and “Education for the Soul” Conference keynote speaker, Mac Macartney.   Contained within the wisdom traditions of North America’s First Nation people are many teachings that relate directly to leadership. A central teaching is that of the Twin Trail.   Like so many other threads of wisdom emerging from indigenous peoples, the Twin Trail reflects a deep understanding of our human psychology. The Twin Trail refers to the inner life; that we all must attend to if we are to lead ourselves (and others) with integrity, authenticity and purpose.  It also speaks to our capacity as humans to make moral choices.   In a challenging encounter that I had with my First Nation mentors in 1998, the Twin Trail was described to me in this manner:      “We would not trust any leader who is not committed to the Twin Trail – the inner trail of self-understanding, self-unfolding and deepening; as this is a necessary companion for the outer trail.   The outer trail concerns how we show up as leaders. It is the barometer for the depth of our inner work. The Twin Trail of leadership is built upon the knowledge that very few humans can survive the accumulation of power without becoming corrupted by it.   Hubris is the greatest challenge of all successful leaders and it grows most powerful where there is no valuing of the inner trail. The outer trail, where our behaviours impact on the world is hugely important, but without the on-going wisdom path of the inner trail, both our conscious and unconscious endeavours, may not...
The 3 Responsibilities of Every Headteacher

The 3 Responsibilities of Every Headteacher

  When I became a Head, the weight of responsibility often weighed heavy on my shoulders. More often than not, this was due to the fact that any responsibility towards the meeting of my own needs, I unconsciously placed second.   Not realising that doing so only added to the pressures that I felt.  It was only after many a dark night of the soul and more than a few tears, that I came to realise that true, authentic success was very much going to be dependent on the degree to which I took responsibility for how I engaged with the pressures of the role and the commitments/promises that I was prepared to make to myself.   Every school leader that I have had the privilege to work with has travelled a similar path. As I have journeyed with them, I have come to see that much like myself, in my early days of Headship, their path towards success has deepened when they have learned to accept three key responsibilities about the role.   Many of these responsibilities were in fact commitments; promises that they made to themselves to help ensure that they stayed true to their own leadership path and were not unduly swayed by the inevitable challenges that so often arise.   Here’s what these 3 key commitments were…   1. Commitment to their own Self-Care   This first commitment should come as no surprise, to those who are familiar with many a blog that I have written. We cannot ignore our own emotional, mental and vocational needs. These are the wells from which our passion springs....