This post was prompted by #SLTchat which has started to become part of my Sunday evening preparation for the week ahead. It gets my mind back on the job and allows me to pick up a whole number of ideas through rapid-fire responses to key questions of the day. As we are now at the mid year point for the performance management cycle, in addition to completing the Mid-Term Review Statement 2013-14 , it also is a good time for us to reflect on the impact of your leadership.
The information in this blog is built around a document called ‘Rush to the top’ from the Hay Group – it is well worth a read. Below is a self-reflection exercise for potential senior leaders but is equally relevant to middle leaders at HWCS. There are a series of different elements, which I have split up and commented on below.
Impacts Positively on Outcomes, Systems & Process and Others
A senior/middle leader has to be credible teacher, someone who has a positive impact on the academic or vocational outcomes on the students in their class. It is difficult for a senior leader/middle leader to expect high standards from their team and others across the school, when they cannot deliver themselves.
The administrative and management skills are linked to efficiency and trust around day-to-day issues. Whilst someone may be able to achieve good outcomes in their own rather idiosyncratic and disorganised way, this does not transfer to leading a team. The team requires an element of clarity, coherence and consistency if they are going to deliver for the students.
Emotionally Intelligent & Resilient
Next comes a section about emotional intelligence and emotional resilience. As leaders, if we want staff to follow us, we must be able to influence them. This is not about a Machiavellian or underhand approach, rather the ability to convince people about the direction of travel and how we can get there. As leaders we don’t need to get it right all the time – people in my experience are pretty forgiving particularly if you acknowledge when you have messed up or over egged the pudding – but they do expect you to empathise with their situation and show the necessary self-control when making decisions and taking the school forward. I don’t want people without the necessary emotional intelligence leading at any level within the organisation. The ability to empathise and show the necessary self control all starts with your own self awareness .
Finally, in this section, a person’s emotional resilience and their response to the stresses and strains of leading is vital to elicit. It’s no good appointing a person who is likely to buckle or fold when it comes to a defining or key moment – everyone expects senior/middle leaders to stand up and be counted when the going gets tough.
Thinks Creatively, Deals with Complexity
These next few are key if you are going to be a successful senior/middle leader – we need creative problem solvers, who can deal with complexity, prepare themselves for current and future challenges and who are ready to go.
We often don’t recognise and reward the different thinkers in education, we tend to like conformity. I’m interested in people who can take a problem, which maybe we’ve been grappling with for years, and look at an innovative way to solve it. The best of these people go beyond thinking outside the box, to not even accepting the box is there – they are the Belbin “plants”. When given a difficult problem in a team meeting how many different solutions do you normally come up with? Too many meetings I’ve sat in go something like this – problem is posed, someone suggest a solution, which is supported by some and criticised by others, but you have to either implement it or do nothing as there are no other suggestions on the table. Sound familiar?
The ability to deal with complexity, see the bigger picture and manage the tensions between different competing demands is important for leaders. At a senior/middle level you need people who can make connections between disparate parts and weave them into a coherent picture for others to see. If it is a simple issue the senior leader/middle or leadership team shouldn’t be spending too much time on it – make a decision and get on with it. The person who is important to avoid here, unless you are convinced they can learn and learn rapidly, is the “I am my position” person, for example, the Curriculum leader who thinks it is their job to fight their corner even when it clearly damages the whole. The very best middle leaders bring a perspective not a position, these are the people who can operate best at a senior level.
A middle leader who is ready to step in to senior leadership (“potential” is a very difficult thing to define and notoriously fickle) is likely to be someone who simply can’t walk past a “situation”, always heads towards the problem and just can’t stop themselves leading. The most successful senior/middle leaders I’ve worked with always had these tendencies.
To finish this blog I would ask you to spend some time looking at this wonderful TED talk from Andy Hargreaves – Uplifting your performance, your people and yourself!