Educational leadership & learning

In his book “What makes a good school” Tim Brighouse identified seven qualities from his years in education. I have elaborated on these qualities based on my experiences as a senior leader in primary schools.

1. Cheerful optimism.

Leaders should be dealers in hope, encouraging others to see the positives and to spend time on solutions not complaining about problems. Whether you believe something will be achieved or not, has an impact on the success of the outcome. Leaders need to also expect the best, and not be ‘knocked back’ by individual ‘knock backs’.

2. Welcoming and enthusiastic.

Leaders need to exude warmth and a genuine interest and care in others. A smile, a welcome, a simple question about someone’s weekend or family member can have a huge impact on staff. Energy levels can drop during a term, a leaders role is to keep being energetic and enthusiastic even when exhausted. They need to keep modelling the behaviours they want to see in others.

3. Being a good listener.

It is crucial that others feel their views and opinions are listened to and valued, even if not agreed with or acted upon. A leader who cannot listen can quickly become insular and ineffective. I have a reputation amongst my staff and pupils for being ‘a bit of a talker’, but I try to listen and ask opening questions of others far more than I speak myself.

4. Have a considered view and practice towards time.

Always mentioned by staff and leaders as a major problem. Time cannot be stretched, so it is about making the most of it through prioritising and delegating. Using time effectively on key strategic priorities and not procrastinating or just keeping busy. Encouraging other staff to do the same, and to not feel guilty about having some time off at weekends / evenings.

5. Celebrate others.

People work hard, people give time effort thought and care to their work in education. Genuinely celebrating those efforts and achievements with authentic thanks makes a huge difference to staff morale and to their willingness to go ‘above and beyond’ in the future. It is also worth remembering to publicly accept blame or apologise for personal mistakes. If we want staff to take risks and be innovative and to be honest when something hasn’t worked or gone wrong, leaders need to show their integrity and honesty.

6. Develop the ability to manage change.

Lots of different theories and opinions abound regarding this. It is important to consider the context: what position is the school in? How ready / willing are people to change? How necessary is the change and at what pace? It is also key to consider the ‘Why’. When people understand why the change needs to happen, and are confident that the processes have been thought through, they are far more likely to ‘buy into it’.

7. A clear educational philosophy.

Wether you call it your ‘vision’ or your ‘key principles’. You must know what you stand for, and what you won’t stand. This needs to be clearly communicated, discussed and debated with staff. Hopefully most will share many of your values. For those staff who are totally opposed it may be time for some individual discussions about their beliefs and future.

I find it useful to read educationalists views on what makes successful leaders as it provides a framework to evaluate and develop my own skills and qualities. I hope this blog may provide a structure or spark for someone else.



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