This blog comes from Emma Bone, Executive Headteacher at the Learning Academy Partnership (LAPSW)
For me, in my role as Executive Head within a MAT, excellence in leadership is fundamentally about growing the next generation of leaders and this takes time and investment.
It is not a ‘quick win’ or ‘gimmick’ but investing in people and time to engage in ‘collateral learning’ pays huge dividends – stretches people outside their comfort zone and has the potential to be golden and transformational!
Within a hardwired MAT, there are a myriad of opportunities to spot that emerging next layer of potential leaders and craft their pathway through the experiences that we offer them across the Trust; only made possible through a ‘deep’ knowledge of all of our schools and the way our Senior Executive Team work as one.
Whilst the role of Executive Leadership is not pinned down, research commonly states that those in Executive Headship have three main strategic priorities:
– Improvement (e.g. addressing school underperformance)
– Expansion (e.g. increasing management capacity and efficiency)
– Partnerships (e.g. forming and growing a school grouping)
In order to achieve these priorities, the role must necessarily focus on: strategic thinking; school-to school consistency and collaboration; coaching and staff development (particularly, building leadership capacity); and an outward focus. Underpinning all of these these those is the building of trust and a focus on spotting and unleashing talent in order to achieve the best for all of our children.
Over the last few years I have been fortunate enough to be involved in developing and facilitating an aspiring leaders programme for our Trust alongside other senior leaders in our MAT. The intention was simple: to create a bespoke programme to cater for early career or aspiring leaders. Our aim, through ‘Leap Into Leadership’, was to offer a programme for aspirational leaders who are in the early stages of their leadership path.
The purpose being to: inspire, inform and explore leadership journeys from the very beginning. Crucially, and perhaps uniquely, it is not a programme exclusive to teaching staff welcoming applications from members of all teams, including administrative, support staff and teaching staff.
This is something which I feel incredibly passionate about as a Senior Leader and my leadership thinking and reflections on my own practice have been stronger as a result of the learning that I have gained from working alongside each of our candidates. It is, above all, an absolute privilege to be part of their journey and some of my proudest moments in leadership have arisen as a direct result.
As School Leaders we have a fundamental duty to grow the next generation of School Leaders and engender passion, joy, grit, determination, resilience, compassion and strength in those who will take up the baton in what is, I believe, the best profession there is. Our awesome responsibility is to not make this job seem impossible; rather to inspire, motivate and equip with skills and attributes that will ensure that they are better leaders than we are and ultimately make a difference for every single child.
‘We become leaders the day we decide to help people grow, not numbers’ – Simon Sinek
‘Before you are a leader success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader success is all about growing others’ – Jack Welch
‘As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others’ – Bill Gates
Key to the programme is the careful crafting of the content from the delivery, the reading materials, visiting speakers and visits to considering different opportunities to learn. A blend of discussion time, exploration, reading and reflection is essential. Our participants are given opportunities to respond to each other, us (as facilitators) and we encourage honest, constructive feedback in order to shape the programme.
A fundamental part of the programme is also how we work to ensure that our participants feel valued – never underestimate the importance of catering (refreshments and a lovely venue), quality time (away from the hustle and bustle of school life), stationery, reading materials and investing in sharing your own journey!
Most importantly, we spend time discussing what Leadership isn’t. When we think of leaders who inspire us they are, more often than not, people who have impacted in a small way on our lives resulting in change; as Drew Dudley shared in his Everyday Leadership those Lolly-pop moments.
As our MAT grows we must evolve but integral to our success will always be our constant learning and reflections around building capacity and succession planning through talent spotting and nurturing the next generation. This, after all, is our legacy.
Key Questions for Reflection
1. How are you strategically planning for capacity growth?
2. How are you nurturing that raw talent within your schools to grow the next generation of great leaders?
3. How can you maximise leadership learning opportunities to make the most of ‘collateral learning?’
4. How can you be creative around maximising opportunities for all aspiring leaders to explore leadership pathways?
5. How engaged are your current middle and senior leaders in developing the next generation? Is this part of your school culture?
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 30 minute 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