Coaching & Leadership Development
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 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 or...
Developing Resilient & Authentic Leadership

Developing Resilient & Authentic Leadership

This blog comes from former Headteacher, executive 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 myself...
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...
What Happens When Leaders Find Headspace

What Happens When Leaders Find Headspace

This Blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small.    When I look back on my time as a Headteacher, time never stood still.   There was an abundance of meetings to hold, opportunities to be taken advantage of, problems to solve, fires to put out…  Yet, there was always a shortage of what I needed most …time and space.  Time to be still and space to think and feel.   In the frenetic life of a school leader time and space are rare commodities. By not affording time to reflect on lessons learnt, people can find themselves repeatedly making the same mistakes.  The lack of space also limits avenues to explore and process the emotional aspects of the role.   As a result, life as a leader can feel mentally, emotionally and physically intense.  This level of intensity, which most school leaders experience, usually brings exhaustion and too often leads to ill-health and burnout.   Increasingly, ill-health and stress-related issues have made us more aware of the need to protect the mental health of our young people, our teachers and school leaders. We have come to realise that time and space are important conditions for a healthy life and sustained hard work.   With time and space, individuals are able to process their thoughts and feelings, develop a more compassionate approach to looking after themselves and find new ways for sustaining a healthy emotional equilibrium. Various contexts are available for school leaders to attend to these things.  One of the most effective we have found is to offer what we call:   –...