What makes a Great School Leader?

There’s plenty of advice out there about what makes a great School 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 School Leaders – 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 School Leadership.
As such, rather than our current education system trying to mould our Heads 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.
Here’s why…

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, pupils and staff  also learn what it truly means to  live by ones’ values.  Staff in particular, 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, when children lives are shaped for the better, because of their values-led behaviours.

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.

We believe that authentic School Leadership is crucial in maintaining the vocational vitality of our School Leaders & developing 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.

That’s why in October 2020, we will once again host Headteachers & School Leaders from across the country for our very special “Education for the Soul” conference.
This conference will feature a new selection of expert speakers and workshop hosts, who will be sharing their insights into how School Leaders can look after their own well-being, lead with authenticity, get the most out of those they lead and above all, deliver the best outcomes for their pupils.
The conference will aim to build on the outcomes of our previous “Education for the Soul” conferences and seek to explore how School Leaders and teachers can learn to lead with integrity, depth and purpose.
As part of this, we will look into how individuals can stay connected to their “why” and their deepest values. Above all, “Education for the Soul” 2020 will aim to help School Leaders and teachers:
– Foster a deep sense of vocation and purpose amongst all staff
– Increase their understanding of the relationship between school development and personal development
– Keep hope, joy passion, commitment and creativity at the heart of their school and relationships with self and others

Learn More


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