Coaching & Leadership Development
Redefining Leadership: The Death of the “Hero-Head”

Redefining Leadership: The Death of the “Hero-Head”

This blog comes from Headteacher of Brundall Primary School, Rick Stuart-Sheppard.   What is being a leader?  What does leadership actually entail? How much does our perception of what a leader looks like simply depend on our age, generation and unquestioned stereotypes?   I’ve been pondering this because I’ve never felt comfortable hanging my suit on the hanger of Headteacher as Hero-leader or “SuperHead”. This is not because I haven’t known some heroic heads doing wonderful things in challenging situations. But rather because there’s always more to them and what they were doing than being a Sheriff walking into town, brandishing a six-shooter and announcing ‘this is how it’s going to be in my town from here on.’ *Pause for blowing the smoke away from the barrels.*   This conception of the Head as Hero has been on the rise for many years now, intensified by the drive towards academisation. Indeed, Mr Gove is alleged to have remarked he would have liked to clone a particular favourite Head of his 20 000 times and this would be progress towards solving educational problems in the UK.  He also picked another ‘hero’ Head to lead Ofsted, with painful results.   A different view of leadership has further deterred for me this idea of a Hero-Head and crystalized my thoughts.  Back in October, I encountered Geoff Mead (author of ‘Storytelling: The Heart and Soul of Leadership’) at the “Education for the Soul” Conference run by Integrity Coaching.  In reading Geoff’s book after the event, I was struck by a definition of leadership that he put forward, namely that leadership involves ‘making meaning...
The 5 Coaching Skills Every SLT Needs

The 5 Coaching Skills Every SLT Needs

    When SLT members are skilled in using the principles of coaching to assist their meetings and relationships with staff, they can help to play a key role in creating school cultures where there is an:    Organic sense of self-improvement fuelled by the genuine and self-motivated desire of all individuals to make things better.  [Buck, 2009: 22]   When coaching is placed firmly at the heart of processes for developing others, teachers and other staff members experience a process in which belief in the development of human potential becomes central to the conversation.   Individuals come to see more fully their unique role and the contributions they can make towards bringing about improvements in their school. Rather than seeing it as something that is done to them, they begin to understand what it means to be accountable to themselves and others and they start to own the process.   Undoubtedly, it takes times to develop these skills and for those SLT members who are committed to developing their coaching skills there are five initial competencies that they should seek to develop…   1. Asking High Level Questions   Questions have the power to change both the content and direction of a conversation. They can play a key role in shaping the structure of a meeting and the quality of outcomes.   For example, in performance management meetings, asking ‘high level’ questions (i.e. ones that enable an individual to think deeply about their intention and motivation to succeed) can be used to enable both the member of staff and line manager to assess:   – Commitment to the...
9 Ways to Forge Trusting Relationships with Your Staff

9 Ways to Forge Trusting Relationships with Your Staff

  In an ideal world, every school would be a place of trusting relationships between the students, staff, governors, parents and the wider school community. So often however, the opposite can be true.   Outdated models of leadership, immature staff and fractured relationships can make for tense times in the staff room. When such dynamics are in play, they can have far reaching effects on the performance of the school, the quality of teaching, and the creativity of the students!   That’s why it’s so important to make creating trusting relationships with your staff a top priority when you are in a leadership role — and here are nine tips for making it happen:   1. Get a sense of your values.   Get a sense of your values and the difference that you want to make in your school and in your community. A great question to ask yourself is, “What do I want students to remember about their time in my school?” This will act as your internal compass for everything you do in your school, which is going to give you the consistency in your behaviour, that’s the foundation of trust.   2. Develop your EI   EI still tends to be a bit of a buzzword in education, but there’s a big difference between having read Daniel Goleman’s books and actually working on your emotional self. As you’re building trust with people, you have to be prepared for some projection to go on — people are going to assign their emotions to you or assign intentions and feelings to you that actually belong to themselves...
The Biggest Mistake a Headteacher can Make

The Biggest Mistake a Headteacher can Make

    As a Head you are human and just like us all, there will be times when you will make mistakes. Mistakes are not to be feared. It is through our mistakes that we learn and grow.   However, in the life of a Head teacher, I would argue there is one mistake, that you cannot afford to make. And that is the mistake of believing because you are now at the ‘top’ of the ladder you are the finished article.   Your years of honing your craft in the classroom and leading as a Deputy have fully prepared you for the role that you now occupy and that there is nothing more for you to learn. Well, nothing could be further from the truth.   When you step into the Headteacher role, it is important to recognise that you are now at another stage in your development as a leader. Very often, the psychological adjustments that need to be made in order for you to fully accept and understand this can be like learning to walk again.   Just as when you were a child learning to walk, you were supported by loved ones to move from a place of unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence (Maslow’s Four Stages of Learning – below), as a school leader you have to be supported to move to this confident place of being.   The impact of leading without psychological support   Without psychological support, the experience for a Head growing into their role can be both lonely and limiting. Progress can be slow and in extreme cases, stunted; neither the...
The 3 Disciplines of Great School Leaders

The 3 Disciplines of Great School Leaders

  Our schools will always need great leaders. Individuals who possess deep levels of courage, tenacity and integrity and are willing to take on the often very heavy mantle of school leadership.   With a continuing decline in the number of teachers putting themselves forward for leadership roles, we need to take a long hard look at what can be done to maintain the commitment of those who have taken a step up the ladder.   Strategies need to be considered that address the person within the role and “evoke the inner life of activities that cultivate their capacity to lead with greater consciousness, self-awareness and integrity” (Parker J Palmer)   When such strategies are in place, an individuals’ capacity for being ‘great’ is increased are they are able to maintain an upward trajectory towards self-actualisation. This trajectory is maintained through the development of three key disciplines that are integral to the way in which they lead themselves and others.   Discipline 1: They ask questions of themselves   Great school leaders know that it is not enough to ask questions of others in their endeavour to create good and outstanding schools. They know that they must also ask questions of themselves. The questions that they know others would not dare to ask of them, but nevertheless they know that they must dare to ask of themselves.   They know they must ask questions about their hidden fears, their limitations, their biases and their emotional responses to the challenges of the role. They face up to asking these questions because they know that in doing so, they will find...
3 Steps to Improving School Communication

3 Steps to Improving School Communication

This blog comes from Justin Robbins and Karen Dempster, co-authors of ‘How to Build Communication Success in Your School’ and workshop facilitators at our upcoming “Education for the Soul” Conference. According to research carried out by the Carnegie Institute of Technology “85% of our success is due to our ability to communicate”. This puts effective two-way communication at the heart of a successful school.   In our previous post, How to Develop your Own Personal Vision we talked about how important a personal vision is to a leader. Similarly, a school’s vision and how it is lived is what sets it apart.   A school leader can create or evolve a vision that inspires their teachers. This best happens through genuine two-way communication and listening.  When lived fully through all that a school does, the vision sets the tone for the right culture, supporting wellbeing, innovation, creativity and enabling teachers to collaborate.  Ultimately, improving the education experience for children.   But, what about when the communication doesn’t reflect your vision or values? For example, a school value is to be ‘considerate’ but parents are literally bombarded with school emails on a Friday afternoon. Or the school vision is to ‘excel’ and yet spelling mistakes are common in staff memos.   Here are three simple steps that your school can take now to ensure your vision and values are reflected in how you communicate…   Step 1 – Listen   Our school communication philosophy is based on starting with good listening habits. One-way messaging, whether to the school team or parents, is just passing on information, a bit like reading a newspaper. A...