Coaching & Leadership Development
January 3, 2018

How to Survive as the Head of a Multi-Academy Trust

How to Survive as the Head of a Multi-Academy Trust


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.


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.


He says,

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 met 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 MATs 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.



Over the last few years, we’ve seen the challenges that MATs face as they seek to raise and maintain standards across their family of schools. Many of these centre around relationships, people management issues and harnessing individual will for the collective good.


New structures, new systems, new roles, new policies and practices can lead to intense periods of transition and uncertainty which can evoke feelings of anxiety, doubt and worry. These feelings can quickly spread from one school to another and if not managed effectively can seriously undermine efforts for creating a unified approach to school improvement across a MAT. Common issues that can arise as a result, include…


– Low levels of Trust

– Poor communication

– Conflict in leadership styles

–  Role adjustment fatigue

– High attrition rates


Left unaddressed these feelings can seriously inhibit the performance and well-being of those who lead and work in our schools which can, in turn, impact on the outcomes for our children.


That’s why we’re decided to launch our Academies Wellbeing Programme designed to motivate, inspire and enable CEO’s, Head teachers and senior leaders to overcome the challenges of leading in a MAT and help them achieve outstanding results for themselves and others…


Learn More


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