Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Leaders need inspiring leaders to lead

In Jim Collins seminal book Good to Great he describes great leadership (level 5 leaders) as self-effacing individuals who display fierce resolve to do what ever needs to be done to make a company great. A great leader channels their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company.

Early in my career I worked under a principal who I would term a great leader. He built a great school by valuing us as individual teachers and allowing us to be the best we could be. He encouraged me to apply for a leadership role, a thought that had not entered my mind at that point, and mentored me as I began to develop my own leadership skills and style. He was an inconspicuous leader as compared to a conspicuous leader. Inconspicuous leadership has a focus on emotional intelligence and fostering happy, productive employees.  It still brings organisational order, decisiveness, and skilfully brings about change and an understanding of emotions, context, timing and systems. A conspicuous leader, on the other hand, is an official authoritative person identified by status, driven by organisational ritual and visible accomplishments, such as new buildings.

As principals we never stop trying to become qualified for the job but the complexities and challenges of day to day school life often lead to frustration and overwhelming feelings of discouragement. Personally, having inspiring leaders to meet with regularly has been the key driver in continuing my leadership role as principal.

I am in awe of my close group of Ariki principal colleagues who manage to mix the attributes of modesty, wilfulness, being humble and fearless for the greater good of their schools. They inspire me as they share their practice and challenge my beliefs blending personal humility with intense personal will. We swallow our egos as we debate, agree or acquiesce but always leave our meetings with more questions than answers. The respect we have for each other as leaders is immense and ever enduring; it is a privilege to be inspired by these leaders.

As principals we are all committed to developing others as leaders, what is commonly described as a distributed leadership model but is in fact a highly supported coaching and mentoring model. Surely this is what principalship is all about – inspiring others to develop and lead other great schools! We share our stories not to impress or build our egos but to inspire others and offer support.

This form of leadership collaboration is driven by an unwavering resolve to improve outcomes for our students. We have all brought about change in the face of resistance, we have all shown care but stayed objective, we have all developed a thick skin in the face of adversity but more importantly we have all continued to inspire others to lead.

It is not about personal greatness; it is about humility – holding your power for the good of others. Being inspired and learning from great leaders has helped me to form and develop my leadership style and hopefully inspire others to lead.

Principals, whether experienced or just beginning their leadership journey need this type of professional learning through out their careers to ensure being a principal is not a job but an inspirational journey fuelled by fierce resolve to ensure all students progress and achieve. Principals need inspiring leaders to lead!

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