Coaching & Leadership Development
What really is Authentic Leadership?

What really is Authentic Leadership?

  “To thine own self be true”   We often talk about being true to ourselves, but which self are we referring to? The ego or the unconditioned/true self?   The ego is what psychologists refer to as our conditioned or learned self. It is that part of us that when we were younger, helped to give us our sense of identity. As we grew older our ego helped us to navigate the world of both inter and intra-personal relationships. We took external cues from others to help determine what was acceptable and what was not.   In doing so, we often made unconscious adaptations to our behaviours. When in the company of others, these adaptations often served to help us feel safe and ultimately feel accepted.   The tragedy is however, in our later years we often stumble and fall; unaware that these adaptations that were once winning formulas for success, are now acting as blockers to our own self-understanding and are inhibiting our own authentic growth.   The path towards authenticity   From what I have experienced in the education sector our understanding of this and the path towards integrity and authentic leadership is limited.   We talk about helping school leaders to own their moral purpose, to learn from their mistakes and to walk the talk, but a big piece of the conversation is missing.  Because we are so accustomed to focusing on the developmental stages of children and young people, rarely do we consider adult stages of development.   As a result, when it comes to supporting the work of school leaders there is a...
The 4 Skills of Authentic Leadership

The 4 Skills of Authentic Leadership

This blog comes from executive coach, mindfulness expert and “Education for the Soul” Conference 2019 workshop host, Judi Stewart “The only way to learn who we are is to sit down and listen to our minds.” Dr Tracey Stors, Professor of Behaviour and Systems Neuroscience, Rutgers University   In leadership, we often talk about the need to be authentic, but what does this mean?    At its root,  authenticity involves being true to yourself and the essence of who you are as a person. Likewise, on a leadership level, it means making daily choices and actions that are aligned to your vision, values and your sense of vocation.   Working with School Leaders, I have seen that when they lead with authenticity, integrity self-regulation and personal nourishment are hallmarks of their personal leadership style.   The challenge is that in order for leaders to learn to lead authentically, they must first understand themselves.   Because if we don’t know who we are, then how do we know when we are being authentic? Who is this person in this school leadership role and what is the basis of their decision making and relationship with others?   To answer these important questions and help leaders develop the strong self-understanding that is essential for Authentic leadership, I believe there are 4 skills they must work on:   1. Learning to pay attention 2. Clarifying and re-clarifying 3. Being able to objectively describe our direct experience 4. Working with our attitudes   1. Learning to pay attention   If we can’t focus because we are deep in worry, in our ‘to do’ lists...
Developing Resilient & Authentic Leadership

Developing Resilient & Authentic Leadership

This blog comes from former Headteacher, IC Associate Coach and “Education for the Soul” 2019 workshop host, Samantha Jayasuriya. I have worked as a Head for 20 years. I was appointed to my first post of Headteacher in 1998 after covering for a year for my substantive Head who decided to take early retirement after a bout of ill health.   After 9 years, I then moved to one of the first Co-Headships in the Borough, for a period of 5 years and then onto a full-time role as Head in a different school for a further 5 year. I returned to a Co-Headship for my final year as a Head before I started working full time as a coach.   Suffice to say, overall, I did enjoy the challenges of Headship. As a teacher I had had bucketloads of creativity, but realised as time passed in the early years, as a Headteacher, that my creativity had been squeezed, year after year, dampened by reports, data, and more.   As I unpicked my thinking, I realised that I had also started to hide my authentic self. I found myself distancing myself from the staff and sharing less and less, eager to take on the perceived notion of what a Head should do. I spent more time at home working, rather than relaxing.   As a Head with young children, I did not have any time for me and any downtime was napping in front of the TV. There was a distinct lack of creative endeavour. More worryingly, over the last ten years as a Head, I had very effectively stopped giving...
Leading with Authenticity – The Cost of Not Being Yourself

Leading with Authenticity – The Cost of Not Being Yourself

  Many of us have, no doubt, experienced times or even situations when we have felt the need to act differently from what feels to be our true self.      Sometimes this is because we believe that in order to succeed or gain approval, we have to alter our behaviour and show others a changed version of ourselves; one that we perceive others want us to be – a “false self” that we think will meet their expectations.   In some situations, the “false self” acts as a very clever defence mechanism. It has the cunning ability to make us feel safe in potentially threatening situations. If we are on our guard and present this “false self” to the  world, then we have no fear of rejection or criticism. As our true, authentic, vulnerable self is protected from the judgement and critique of others.   Being authentic is something increasingly talked about in the context of leadership, but can be very difficult for School Leaders. Particularly given the prevalent damaging expectation on School leaders to be “Superheads”, strong rocks of their respective schools, impervious to criticism, unmoved by crises and able to turn around a school without feeling anything in the process.   As such, it is not unusual for many Heads to feel that they need to hide their vulnerability, in order to try and live up to this expectation and maintain order and command respect from staff and pupils alike.   However, what is often overlooked, is that by not being ourselves, there is a heavy price to pay, in terms of our well-being, our relationships...
Is there a place for Vulnerability as a MAT CEO?

Is there a place for Vulnerability as a MAT CEO?

This blog comes from the Chief Executive Officer of Folio Education Trust, Jonathan Wilden People’s immediate answer to whether vulnerability is a suitable trait for a CEO would probably be absolutely not. Under no circumstances should a successful leader show any form of weakness.    However, I feel this is too simple an understanding of what ‘vulnerability’ means in the context of leadership. Rather than translating as “showing weakness”, I believe vulnerability can be better understood as a human characteristic that involves being more open, more sensitive and at times becoming a more acquiescent leader, to allow the actions of others to develop and prevail.   Jim Collins in his description of a Level 5 leader, describes an individual who displays both ‘humility’ and ‘will’ – both of which are key elements of vulnerability and are two traits with which I have tried to build my professional career upon.   Certainly being ‘human’ and embedding empathy within our decision making could be interpreted as a softer more vulnerable side of leadership, which can bring more positive change and motivation from those that we lead.   I think that there is a strong human trait and a sense of vulnerability which is present in the best and most effective CEOs. As Jim Collins describes in his book ‘Good to Great’, there is nothing wrong with a Level 4 ‘effective’ leader who drives towards a clear and compelling vision, but they can lack that personal humility which can effectively compliment a professional will present in the vast majority of CEOs.   I suppose those interested in becoming a Level 5 CEO must ask...
What are the habits of an Effective MAT CEO?

What are the habits of an Effective MAT CEO?

This blog comes from the Chief Executive Officer of Folio Education Trust, Jonathan Wilden   In 2013, I was appointed to the position of Headteacher having been Deputy Headteacher in the School since 2010.   Following a rigorous external advert and interview process, I was in the fortunate position of being able to continue the work that I had already started in changing the school in its journey to becoming Ofsted outstanding which it finally achieved in 2017.   2013 was a very important year in my career development and remains a time which I reflect upon, now that I have moved from Headteacher to CEO. Two small but significant things happened. Firstly, following my appointment to my first Headship, the then retiring Headteacher came into my office smiling and through a book on my desk telling me to read it. He left chuckling to himself. The book was entitled ‘What got you here, won’t get you there’.   While this may come across as being mean it wasn’t. In the care free act of tossing me a book the message was clear – ‘you have been great but make sure you think about how to approach the next few years – don’t be the same person’. At the time I thought, ‘Don’t worry I will be fine’, but on reflection I needed that message. As being a Deputy is not the same as being a Headteacher and just like becoming a CEO is different to the role of Headship.   The second incident in 2013 was within my first Half Term as Headteacher. During this time I clearly hadn’t...