Coaching & Leadership Development
Why our Schools Need Authentic Leaders

Why our Schools Need Authentic Leaders

  It truly saddens me to say this, but it is my belief that one of the unfortunate legacies of recent educational reform has been the fuelling of egocentric approaches to school improvement.   Government policy has enabled investment that has assisted the creation of personal power bases, rather than an education system in which all truly flourish.   For those heads and school leaders who have sought to maintain an altruistic approach to their roles, the constant question many have struggled with is; “How, within the current realities of the education system, can I maintain my original ideals and lead with true authenticity?”   The school leaders who ask this question are the brave and courageous ones. They are the ones who are prepared to do the ‘inner work’ of school leadership and ask the deep questions that will ensure that they remain rooted in their values and what they know to be true. They are the authentic leaders.   And, make no mistake, like never before, we need these authentic leaders. We need them at the helm of our schools for 3 key reasons:   1. Every child has the right to flourish   For this to be true our school leaders need to flourish. School leaders cannot and do not flourish when they are leading from a place that is a lesser version of their true/best self. It simply isn’t possible.   Within us all there is a desire to reach forward, to grow. However, when this is thwarted, whether through fear, the misuse of power, etc., individuals adopt behaviours that keep them and their aspirations...
The 4 Key Qualities of Authentic School Leaders

The 4 Key Qualities of Authentic School Leaders

  Recently, I’ve been considering one question that I believe is very important to our education system today…   What does it mean to be an authentic school leader?   My reflections on this question brought me to the work of author and authenticity expert, Brené Brown who defines it as “the choice to show up and be real, to be honest and let our true selves be seen”.   Yet as many school leaders often find and Brown points out, being authentic isn’t easy. It involves “choosing being real over being liked” and putting your True Self out to the world which can be both uncomfortable and daunting.   However, whilst there is a risk, there’s also a lot to gain. Brown explains that this authenticity is also crucial for building trust, believing in oneself, facilitating better communication and cultivating genuine human connection. Features which, I believe are vital in our schools as we seek to nurture within our children a healthy sense of what it means to be human.   In my time working with School Leaders, I’ve also witnessed first-hand the enormous difference greater authenticity can make to school leaders themselves; in terms of the decisions they make, the leader they have been able to become and the school cultures they’ve been able to create.   But what does an Authentic School Leader look like, what qualities would you expect to see?   Well, I believe there are four qualities that you will often find in an Authentic School Leader…   1. They are deeply connected to their passion and purpose   Authentic school leaders know themselves,...
What happens when Headteachers drop the Leadership Mask?

What happens when Headteachers drop the Leadership Mask?

If you are head teacher, then I am sure, this image will speak volumes to you! You know exactly what it takes each and every day to step into the role of Head teacher and enter a system that so often forgets that you are human. A system, which despite all the well-intentioned rhetoric, expects you to constantly withstand the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’. And, no matter how fast and furious they might be, requires that you always come out victorious, with an ever-present smile on your face.   However, I am sure you know as a Head, many a time life just isn’t like that. Those slings and arrows, whether from a colleague, an inspector, a parent or a Governor, can hurt. They can pierce the soul and leave you feeling utterly down-spirited and disheartened.   It is because of this fact and working closely as we do, with Head teachers, that we decided to host our termly Headteacher’s Nurture Meals. We wanted to do something, that clearly said to Head teachers,    ‘You are of value; you are of worth and you have the right to have your needs met’   We are always very clear in our purpose. This was designed not to be one of those Head teacher gathering where individuals met with their peers, but still felt the need to be to wear their leadership mask or suit of armour, for fear of being judged or criticised for anything that they might say. We wanted to make sure this was different.   Different…. But how? Well … we create a loose framework for discussion, but in the...
The 5 Characteristics of Great School Culture

The 5 Characteristics of Great School Culture

  Recently, we announced the launch of our latest cohort of our 4 Day Coaching Programme to Maximise School Performance.   In preparation for the programme, I have been reflecting on the features of school cultures that serve to grow adults and foster outstanding staff performance.   As I did so, I was reminded of research carried out by Stoll and Fink at the Institute of Education. Their research identified a number of school cultural norms that they cite as evidence for strong, positive school cultures.   They assert that if these norms are weak or non-existent within a school, then growth and development at both an individual and organisational level are severely hampered.   Out of the norms which they identified, I believe there are five that are essential, for creating genuine school cultures in which all adults and young people thrive.   As you read through these, I’d encourage you to reflect on each of the norms below and perhaps consider these questions:   – To what extent are these norms present in your school culture? – Which norms are strengths and would act as enablers for the development of a positive culture in your school? – Which norms are weaknesses/areas for development and might act as potential barriers for the development of a positive culture in your school? – What strategies could be developed for overcoming these barriers?   1. Shared Goals & Vision – We know where we’re going   When individuals are empowered to take ownership of their goals it can cause a shift in the culture of a school. As individuals learn how to work in alignment with the school’s vision and values, a new set of relationship...
How to Stop People Management Issues Dominating Your Leadership

How to Stop People Management Issues Dominating Your Leadership

  As a school leader have you ever wondered why people management issues tend to dominate most of your time?   My reflection on this is quite simply that we humans are complex and the older we get, the harder it seems for us to truly grow up and behave as adults! Children are far easier to understand and deal with, even the most challenging are honest; whether through their behaviour, or otherwise, they tend to let us know how they are truly feeling.   The games people play   With us ‘grown ups’, the communication games we played as children continue into adulthood and into our personal and professional lives. Most of the time, we are unaware of the roles that we adopt in the game. However, if you are a leader, there will come a time when you shout:   “Stop! the rules of the game need to change!”   That’s when you come to the realisation, that, if you understood a little bit more about yourself and the dynamics of human behaviour, you’d have a far greater chance of being able to achieve better outcomes for yourself and those that you lead and manage. Transactional Analysis [TA]   Developed by Dr Eric Berne in the 1950s, TA is a psychological tool that can help us develop a greater understanding of what happens when we communicate with other people. An understanding of TA in our working lives can help us to:   – Identify our emotional triggers and the emotional triggers of others – Overcome our emotional triggers and lead from a place of deep personal self-control...
3 Things Headteachers Should Stop Feeling Guilty About

3 Things Headteachers Should Stop Feeling Guilty About

    The weight of school leadership is not an easy load to bear. It takes a pair of broad shoulders to consistently carry the weight of expectation that is placed upon Heads and their roles.   All too often, the weight of responsibility is made that much heavier by the feelings of guilt that many Heads carry around with them. Guilt that is kept hidden from others but is not secret to the bearer.   For many a School Leader guilt is insidious and more often than not undermines your efforts to do the right thing. You know as a Head, doing the right thing is frequently the most difficult thing to do; particularly when decisions made are contrary to what ‘others’ believe is required.   Guilt knows this and rather than support your decisions, guilt works in tandem with your inner critic to tell you that you have got it wrong. That it is you that is out of step and that you are to blame for the emotional responses and behaviours of others.   In addition, because guilt has an intimate relationship with the psyche of School Leaders, it has played a key role in thwarting many School Leaders’ attempts to take care of themselves. If you are a School Leader, guilt tells you that you are in some way mistaken if you consider putting your needs ahead of the children or staff in your school.   It tells you, even when you are at breaking point, that you can’t take your foot off the peddle. Guilt just pushes you harder and harder and has little...