A Decade of Innovation: Integrity Coaching’s Role in Redefining School Leadership

2024 marks the 10th anniversary since the publication of Viv’s first book, “Staying A Head: The Stress Management Secrets of School Leaders”. Across the span of ten years much has transpired, compelling us, as a company, to ponder the evolution of our work within the ever-shifting landscape of education.

Now, a decade after the debut of “Staying A Head,” we find ourselves advocating fervently for the concept of Inner Leadership—an ethos we believe holds transformative potential in cultivating more ethical and humanitarian approaches to school leadership.

This blog serves as a concise narrative of Integrity’s origin, underscored by our enduring commitment to empowering school leaders.

Integrity Coaching: Our Origin Story

Integrity Coaching was born from Viv Grant’s personal journey as a Headteacher and her commitment to fostering leadership development and race equity in education.

Growing up amidst the challenges of inner-city life in the 70s and 80s, Viv, a child of the Windrush generation, experienced first-hand the impact of low expectations and systemic racism in education. Her secondary schooling was peppered with micro-aggressions and incidents of racism, exemplified by a careers teacher who told her she should aspire to be nothing more than a cashier at the local supermarket. Despite these challenges, her desire to make a difference led to her, in the 90s, becoming one of the youngest Headteachers to turn around a failing primary school in Stockwell, South London.

The Birth of Integrity Coaching

However, as accolades for the school’s improvements poured in, Viv masked her internal struggles. The relentless pressures of headship left her feeling isolated and emotionally drained. It was during a pivotal encounter with a parent that Viv confronted the personal cost of sacrificing her well-being for the sake of her school’s success.

In an article published in the Guardian, she shared an extract from her diary: The job is all-consuming, and I feel so alone. There seems to be no one I can go to when things go wrong to talk through difficult situations. I love this school, I love my staff, and I love the children, but does leading have to be at such a great personal cost?”

Out of this period of internal turmoil emerged the seed of Integrity Coaching. Recognising the humanity behind the facade of strength, Viv founded Integrity Coaching in 2008, embarking on a mission to provide a sanctuary for leaders to reflect, heal, and thrive.

Consequently, over the years, Integrity Coaching has become known as a beacon of support for Headteachers navigating the lonely journey of school leadership.

Deepening Integrity’s Work with School Leaders

Following the tragic murder of George Floyd in May 2020, Viv’s vision for Integrity Coaching deepened. She recognised the urgent need for systemic change to equip the UK’s majority white school leaders with the intra and interpersonal skills to lead race work in their schools confidently. This led to the creation of Integrity Coaching’s Race, Identity, and School Leadership programme, pioneering an approach that considers race and identity work integral to any CPD focused on school leadership. To date, the programme has enabled over two hundred white school leaders to claim their agency with race work and help shape a more equitable future for all.

An Unexpected Turn

In 2023, Viv’s journey as Director of Integrity Coaching took an unexpected turn with a rare cancer diagnosis prevalent among women of colour. Through her treatment and recovery, Viv gained profound insights into the concept of ‘Inner Leadership’ and its intersections with Integrity’s specialisms around headteacher well-being and race work, recognising at a much deeper level the intrinsic connection between external outcomes and personal development.

An Encompassing Theme: Inner Leadership

Viv now advocates for Inner Leadership as a central tenet for effective MAT and school leadership. The world’s challenges are far more complex and entrenched than in the past. Old leadership paradigms and school leadership norms are not sufficient to address the depths with which these challenges need to be faced.

The concept of Inner Leadership serves as a counterpoint to addressing these challenges. Through Integrity’s evolution and Viv’s own accompanying personal journey, she has identified five traits, or ‘C’s, that can transform how school leaders rise to the increased complexities of school leadership today:

The Five C’s are:

  1. Curiosity: The capacity to engage with questions that cause individuals to look beyond the surface of their lives.
  1. Commitment: The capacity to commit to ‘The road less travelled’ and develop new norms and ways of being that serve the greater whole and move beyond competition and individualism.
  1. Courage: The capacity to embrace vulnerability and personal and cultural shadows to develop psychological maturity and wisdom that underpin good leadership.
  1. Compassion: The capacity to treat oneself with understanding and self-compassion as old habits are let loose and replaced by new generative ones.
  1. Connection: The capacity to build deeper connections with self, others, and the planet.

These five traits are interwoven into the company’s seven-step signature model for Leadership Excellence:

  1. Empowerment
  2. Encouragement
  3. Exploration of Self
  4. Empathic Accuracy
  5. Embracing Inclusivity
  6. Envisioning
  7. Engaging in Action

Each service the company offers supports individuals, teams, and organisations to engage deeply with these steps, enabling them to better navigate the complexities of MAT and school leadership with heightened capacities to commit to the path of Inner Leadership in service of themselves and those they are in relationship with.

Be a Part of the Change

As we navigate our evolving and increasingly complex educational landscape, Integrity Coaching remains steadfast in its commitment to Inner Leadership, placing it as a central tenet for maintaining ethical and humanitarian approaches for both MAT and school leadership.

We hope that if our story resonates, you will join us in shaping a better future for all.

If you’d like to book a call to discuss any of our services, click below:

We’d be more than happy to have a chat to see if we can support you in your endeavours to help shape a better future for all!

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