There’s plenty of advice out there about what makes a great leader, from text books, certifications and seminars.
Often the advice focuses around what leaders should do, how they should behave and highlighting what are deemed to be outstanding leadership examples.
However, the more I’ve worked with leaders in schools – the more it has become apparent that there is no one-size fits all model of leadership.
What’s more, I’ve since learned that great leadership ‘cannot be reduced to a matter of technique or style’. Rather, it comes from the very identity and integrity of every individual who has chosen to take on the mantle of leadership.
As such, rather than trying to mould individuals into the leaders it thinks they ought to be, I believe we should be inspiring them to lead from within, from the very heart of who they are; through ways which tap into their own unique gifts, their values and their own internal sense of purpose.
1. Leaders are more able to make wise decisions
Most leaders are capable of wise decision making. However, the combination of unstable internal and external environments, often works against this happening as frequently as it should. Instead, leaders are often forced to be reactive in their decision making; time, events, their own thoughts and emotions do not stand still for long enough to enable them to access deeper, higher levels of thought and reason that lead to wise decision making.
Most learn to live with it, an unfortunate, but accepted consequence of the role. However, living with it, does not make it any easier to bear. Most want to inhabit the role differently, most want to know how to better manage their responses to the rapid succession of events that are hurled at them virtually each and every day.
For those who’ve developed an authentic practice, i.e. a practice that allows them to be more mindful and listen to themselves, decision-making becomes easier. These leaders know how to make decisions that are consistently in line with their values. Those who have yet to develop such a practice, tend to be pushed into choices that compromise their principles and sadly, often live with a diminished sense of agency, connection and purpose.
2. Leaders create environments built on trust
When leaders are authentic, they not only trust themselves more, but they also learn how to build deeper and more trusting relationships with others. You may have noticed this yourself; leaders who are comfortable in their own skins, make it easy for others to trust them and feel comfortable in their presence. Whereas with leaders for whom the opposite is true, relationships are often tenuous and can be a reflection of the leaders’ own inner state.
When staff and teachers are able to see a person that they can relate to, who is consistent in their behaviours and the application of their values, trust becomes part of the glue that brings a greater degree of cohesiveness to relationships.
What’s more, inspired by the example, staff also learn what it truly means to live by ones’ values. Staff understand that there is challenge and there is risk in really living up to one’s values, but they also come to see that the risk is well worth the effort.
3. Leaders are more likely to be resilient and motivated
It is hard to lead with authenticity and purpose when there is a lack of resonance between your own personal/professional endeavours and your own internal ‘Why.’
When leaders are supported to stay connected to a deep internal sense of purpose, motivation and resilience remains high, even in the most challenging of circumstances. Replace that drive with an external, punitive outside source and the impact is usually the opposite.
We need only look at the continued high rates of attrition from the profession and talk to colleagues who have left, to know that this is true.
Do you want to lead with greater authenticity and resilience?
We believe that authentic School Leadership is crucial for both supporting sustainable leadership and developing emotionally healthy schools.
Yet being an authentic School Leader can be exceedingly challenging, particularly in the context of an education system which has not, as yet, found a consistent way to enable School Leaders to embrace their vulnerability and true sense of personhood.
Our schools, our young people need to be led by leaders who understand, as in the words of American author Brene Brown, ‘You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.’
In order for that to happen and to learn to show up in this way, leaders need regular spaces where they can take off their leadership cloak and be themselves; a space where they can show their vulnerabilities, be open and honest about the issues, questions, doubts and feelings they are having and be supported to make sense of these in relation to the demands of the role.
Social workers have supervision to help them process their toughest cases, and corporate executives have a space for “lessons learned” and continuous improvement between projects. Yet School Leaders often have no such equivalent to support them on their journey towards greater authenticity.
That’s why I am now offering free “Coaching for The Soul” support calls for School Leaders to provide such a space where leaders can:
– Talk through the challenges you’re currently facing in your role
– Get support in locating next steps and solutions to help you overcome the issues you’re experiencing
– Reflect on recent events and the impact they have had on you as a leader and as a person.
– Gain clarity in your thoughts and your current situation
If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!