Coaching & Leadership Development
March 12, 2018

The Challenge & Promise of Authentic School Leadership

The Challenge & Promise of Authentic School Leadership

Recently, I’ve been considering one question that I believe is very important to our education system today…


What does it mean to be an authentic school leader?


My reflections on this question brought me to the work of author and authenticity expert, Brené Brown. Brown defines authenticity as “the choice to show up and be real, to be honest and let our true selves be seen”.


Yet as many school leaders often find, and Brown points out, being authentic isn’t easy. It involves “choosing being real over being liked” and putting your True Self out to the world. Which can be both uncomfortable and at times incredibly daunting.


However, whilst there is a risk, there’s also a lot to gain. Brown explains that this authenticity is also crucial for building trust, believing in oneself, facilitating better communication and cultivating genuine human connection. Features which, I believe are vital in our schools as we seek to nurture within our children a healthy sense of what it means to be human.


But what does an Authentic School Leader look like, what qualities would you expect to see? Well I believe the core qualities that you will often find in an Authentic School Leader…


1. They are deeply connected to their passion and purpose


Authentic school leaders know themselves, what they stand for, what they want to achieve, and why they have chosen to take on the mantle of school leadership. They are deeply connected to their passion and purpose and this drives them every day.


As a result, they are better able to articulate their school’s vision and staff are more able to see beyond their own classrooms and connect with the bigger picture. These leaders are able to stay motivated, even when times are tough, because  they are sustained by their driving purpose and their big WHY.


2. They lead with Integrity


Authentic School leaders know what their values and purpose are and every action and decision is made with these in mind. For authentic school leaders, decision-making becomes easier as they know what can’t be done, what has to be done and how to act in alignment with what they stand for.


Moreover, they also have the courage to do what they believe is necessary or right, even when it is uncomfortable and/or difficult to do so.


These school leaders inspire others with their values and help build trust as staff are able to see and know what their leader is all about.


3. They know their Strengths and Weaknesses


An authentic school leader is also able to recognise both their strengths and the skills and qualities they need to develop. These leaders are more able to make full use of their talents for the benefit of their school. In addition, they are also not afraid to be honest with themselves about the aspects of their leadership which could be improved.


These leaders are able to accept themselves as they are and recognise that growth and development never ends. They welcome movement out of their comfort zones as they know that this is how they will overcome their fear and self-imposed limitations.


As these leaders take the time to reflect on and recognise qualities in themselves. As a result, these leaders become better at spotting talent and seeing the strengths of their staff that could benefit their school and the communities they serve.


4. They have the courage to be vulnerable and open


An authentic leader knows that vulnerability and open communication are crucial for authentic and meaningful human connection. Authentic school leaders have the courage to express who they truly are; they share their beliefs, goals, concerns and fears openly and honestly – and encourage others to do the same.


As such, they are not afraid to have the deep, difficult conversations that come from the heart. They do not fear emotional exposure. As a result, they are more likely to speak out and ask for help when they are struggling or need support.


These leaders model their humanity and their openness and staff are empowered to do the same. In their schools, staff feel listened to, cared for and above all come to understand what it takes to show up daily as their best selves.


Do you have a desire to lead with greater authenticity? 


Amidst the growing levels of complexity and challenge for school leaders today, we have to recognise that asking for help can be one of the bravest things a school leader can do. It takes courage, it takes bravery, it takes honesty and integrity, it can also lead to a path of greater personal and professional authenticity.


These  core qualities resonate with the ideas, insights and research of Professor Bill George,  Professor of Management Practice, and a Henry B. Arthur Fellow of Ethics, at Harvard Business School.


On the 27th April 2018, Professor Bill George will be  leading a masterclass on True North Leadership- Being our Authentic Self.  The class will take place in Central London.


As part of the event, Viv Grant, Director of Integrity Coaching, will be hosting a workshop for school leaders. The workshop will build on themes from Bill’s talk and their application to the life and work of school leaders.


Cost: The full cost of the event is £495. We are pleased to announce that for Integrity Coaching clients there is a special discount fee of £395 (exc vat)


Booking: To secure your place at this discounted price email quoting VGIC01 discount code and places will be offered on a first come- first serve basis.


Bookings made before the 21st of March will also receive a Podcast of an edited version of Prof Bill George’s session on True North Leadership, that can be used for  INSET sessions for School Leaders.

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