Being the Head of a Mutli-Academy Trust (MAT) is a role that still feels new to many and as a result many Exec Heads and CEO’s are still struggling to understand what the role is really asking of them.
However, we do know a few things for sure. We know that increasingly, in these roles leaders are having to find ways to:
– Cope with increased levels of ambiguity and organisational uncertainty as they steer individuals, teams and schools towards a shared vision
– Broaden their networks within and outside of traditional educational circles
– Stay abreast of organisational system change and dynamics and their impact (for better or worse) on both staff and pupil outcomes
For many, this has meant working at the very edge of their comfort zone. It is a ‘brave, new world’ which they are now in and for which new navigational tools are needed if they are to survive and thrive.
Developing new navigational tools for surviving leadership of a MAT
If you are an Exec Head or the CEO of a MAT, you will have experienced the emotional and psychological intensity that occurs when seeking to bring about change across organisations and through different layers of personnel.
Therefore it hopefully won’t come as a surprise to you, when I say that the new navigational tools that you require to survive as the leader of a MAT, are slightly different from traditional organisational leadership and management tools.
No doubt, you will have already have been on courses that have provided you with information on how to manage the new external landscape; how to bring about system level change, how to expand your MAT and how to work with economies of scale. All necessary information in this current educational climate, but not enough if you or your MAT are going to fulfil your hopes, dreams and ambitions.
Esteemed educationalist and author Peter Senge, has spoken widely of the need for Personal Mastery in leadership. Particularly when leaders are faced with increased levels of organisational complexity.
“Personal mastery is something that we all want to achieve, whether we know it or not. It is about our journey towards continuous improvement and seeing life from a different perspective. Personal mastery is guided by principles such as purpose, vision, belief, commitment and knowing oneself…It goes beyond competence and skill.”
This quality is what is needed by all in education, but even more so by those such as Exec Heads and CEO’s who by virtue of role and status, have the ‘power’ to influence many. They have a core developmental need that must be me.
Yet, it is rarely given the attention it needs. As a result, many Exec Head and CEO’s struggle to survive and make the impact that they truly desire across their MATS.
Why are Heads of MAT’s struggling to achieve their goals?
Why are Heads of MAT’s struggling to achieve their goals? It is because it has not been fully recognised that as an organisation develops and expands, a parallel psychological and emotional growth process occurs for those who lead it.
They are the ‘growing pains’ so often spoken of in our youth, but equally applicable to adulthood. Left unattended, this inner process hurts and manifests itself as self-doubt and worry. Individuals may continue to lead, but very often with an inner sense of diminished personal authority. As they have not developed the inner tools necessary for personal mastery.
If this resonates for you, then it is important to understand that there is one central conversation that you must keep alive as you navigate the change process for yourself and others. You must keep the vocational conversation going!
Through times of rapid growth and expansion, this conversation often gets drowned out amidst the clamour for improved results and the jockeying for positions on government league tables. Yet this is the conversation that builds resilience in self and others and helps to alleviate some of the growing pains that leaders of MATs experience.
When conversations around meaning and purpose are a part of the narrative for building success across a MAT, then MAT’s and their leaders set themselves on a trajectory that is less to do with survival and more to do with thriving.
Great leaders of MAT’s know this and they intentionally adopt practices that enable them to:
– Deepen their own levels of self-awareness and self-knowledge
– Practise qualitative reflection on their sense of purpose, direction and own levels of vocational vitality
– Understand the relationship between system wide change/school improvement and their own personal/professional development.
These leaders don’t just survive, they thrive. They understand that effective leadership is not just about doing. They understand that the quality of their leadership and related outcomes is dependent on who they are. They understand that they must be intentional in developing new relationships with themselves and the different types of ‘power’ and authority that their role has bestowed upon them.
COVID 19 – The Challenges of Leading a MAT in times of Uncertainty
Even at the best of times, MATs face a number of issues as they seek to raise and maintain standards across their family of schools.
In my experience, challenges typically centre around relationships, people management and harnessing experience and skills within their team for the collective good.
However, the COVID-19 outbreak has presented MAT CEO’s with an unprecedented array of challenges. The implications of which are far-reaching and will have transformed most aspects of academy life.
Consequently, for many, this period of intense transition and uncertainty has been characterised by feelings of anxiety, doubt and worry. The impact of which is still very much in evidence across all levels of our school communities.
Whilst staff navigate new ways of working and indeed new relationships with one another, attention still needs to be given to new systems, roles, policies and practices that will shape the ‘new normal’.
Amidst all of this, what mustn’t be forgotten is that Executive Leadership in these times has been traumatic for many. Many a CEO has had to had to carry a huge emotional weight and work extended hours to ensure that no stone had been left unturned. It has not been easy.
Time to properly process, unpick and formulate a strategic response to the wide range of issues that have arisen has been in short supply.
Executive Leaders need time to consider the impact this crisis has had across their communities, so they can reflect in depth on the foundations that need to be put in place to support their leaders, staff and pupils alike when they return in September.
It is for this reason, we are now offering free 1 hour 1:1 MAT Executive Leadership Sessions.
These sessions are designed to provide MAT CEOs with a strategic planning space where executive leaders can:
– Develop a deeper insight into the impact and key learnings from the last few months, personally and professionally
– Find solutions to fit your current context and challenges faced
– Consider new ways of working and internal system change that will be needed to accommodate life in the ‘new normal’
– Build a greater understanding of your support and well-being needs of both themselves and their school community
– Identify the best strategies for strengthening relationships with colleagues and the wider community