Monday, 14 March 2016

The 4 Cs of a leaderful leader

At a recent meeting with my Board Chair we discussed leadership styles and she introduced me to the concept of leaderful practice. This view of leadership is relatively new and was originally developed by Joe Raelin who broadly describes it as “involving everyone in leadership”.

Distributed, transformational, democratic, instructional leadership are all terms often associated with leadership style in schools. I believe we adopt aspects of different styles depending on the context and people. However, a style of leadership generally refers to the way a leader provides direction, how plans and programmes get implemented, and how staff is motivated to do their work.

Leadership practice can be described as the abilities and traits that we bring individually to our style of leadership. For example, characteristics such as visionary, honest, caring may be combined with key behaviours such as active listening, a team player and lead learner and together form a particular leadership style.

Leaderful practice is defined by the 4 Cs: collective which means everyone in a school can serve as a leader; concurrent which means that not only can many members serve as leaders, but they can do so at the same time; collaborative which means everybody is in control of, and can speak for, the entire team, that is, all members engage in a mutual dialogue to determine what needs to be done and how to do it, and together they pitch in to accomplish the work; and, compassionate which means members commit to preserving the dignity of every single member of the team, meaning that they consider each individual whenever any decision is made or any action taken (Raelin, 2004).

Presently the innovative learning environment concept that is trending in New Zealand has led to aspects of collaborative leaderful practice developing organically. For example, collaborative practice and teaching is based on a shared pedagogy, a united voice and the combined actions of a dedicated team.

An example of the collective leaderful practice is the practice of coaching and mentoring prevalent within many New Zealand schools that has allowed a culture of teachers as experts to develop.

Again, schools often have multiple teacher leaders operating at one time as team leaders, curriculum leaders, enviro group leaders etc fulfilling the concurrent leaderful practice.

However, it is the fourth leaderful practice that I believe is pivotal and is often lacking in our approach to leading, and, the hardest to achieve. The compassionate aspect of leaderful practice.

The first piece of advice I received on becoming a first time principal was not to make friends with any staff members and to keep to myself. After all I was the boss, the buck stopped with me and I had to make final decisions alone therefore I needed to be the most knowledgeable and in charge. I have spent many years as a principal trying to carry out a role in a particular way that conflicted with my natural aptitude, skills and personality. The conflict this has caused has been immense!

On reflection I think adhering to this advice over a number of years resulted in a feeling of isolation, separateness and even a feeling of insecurity at times. Now through my life experiences I realise that connecting to staff on a personal level, forming more personal relationships with staff and utilising my natural compassionate nature without fear is true leaderful practice.

The personal experience of losing my husband and best friend while leading a school and experiencing the genuine compassion from each staff member was incredible. It showed me the huge value of being humble, serving others and ensuring the dignity of all is upheld.

Empowering all capable teachers to lead through participative leadership practices, growing all teachers as experts and ensuring a high degree of transparent decision making all impact on positive school development and culture. However, being genuinely interested in staff personal lives and well being and allowing them to bring their whole person to work brings a sense of belonging and acceptance. This in turn leads to a sense of we are all in this together and together we shall succeed!

Leaderful practice ignites the natural talent in teachers to contribute to the productiveness and growth of the school. I see it frequently from curriculum innovation through to Open Days; teachers leading the way, working together with trust, counting on each other and feeling valued.

Having a deep consideration of others is after all what we expect from our students!


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