The Notebook- What Kind of Leader Do You Want to Be? (Part 2)

I want to be
A leader that is reflective
Robbie Burns said in ‘To a Louse’ ‘O would some power the giftie gie is, to see oursels as others see us’ As a leader do you make time to reflect on your everyday decisions and conversations? I usually do this just before I nod off to sleep. How do we perceive ourselves? How do we know it’s the right perception? I’m sure many leaders walk around blissfully unaware of what staff’s true opinion is of them and maybe that’s ok in some circumstances. However- how do we know if we are really getting it right? What tools do we have at our disposal? I really like those 360 questionnaires that so many leadership courses ask you to complete, yet are we brave enough to complete them or ask staff for feedback? This is a difficult one, as some staff may be a little worried about writing the truth for fear of consequences. As a former Head of English I used to ask staff to do this anonymously every year- it was great feedback and generally there were lots of positives but also a few hard messages. However hard they were to hear, it certainly made me stop and be reflective and review how I handled certain situations.  I think being reflective goes back to part 1 of his blog about how good a listener you are. Note to self- am I being truly reflective? I know this is an area that I can definitely work on more.  This blog is certainly helping me towards doing that.

I want to be
A leader that is outward looking
How much can we learn from other schools? So much is the answer. I believe some of my best ideas have been from colleagues on Twitter that I’ve taken and then developed further. I love reading case studies from Heads I follow on Twitter and wherever possible visiting their schools. Sometimes it can be too easy to be inward looking when there is so much external pressure. Sometimes it can be too easy to focus on the wrong things when really it’s the basics that need addressing. I like to research topics, find out who is doing really well at something and then make contact with them to learn even more from them. Note to self- if I ever get to be a Head, actively encourage my staff to do this.

I want to be
A leader that can make the right appointments 
Again Richard Branson talks a lot about this. He talks about character being higher than intellect and says ‘don’t get hung up on qualifications alone. A person who has multiple degrees in your field isn’t always better than someone who has broad experience and a great personality’ I love this! Probably because my own qualifications aren’t brilliant yet I feel that I have so much more to offer than just qualifications. Luckily my qualifications haven’t hindered my career progression, but interestingly no one has ever explored why my qualifications perhaps don’t match up to my results or my references. If would be employers did a little more digging they’d perhaps find out that I ran a successful restaurant whilst completing my degree. So whilst I was studying through the day, at night I worked every hour possible getting a restaurant up off the ground. The experience of running a business was invaluable and gave me so much more than qualifications alone ever could. I’m therefore always the champion of the underdog in many interviews that I’ve sat in over the years.  Note to self- those with the best qualifications don’t always cut it in the classroom!

I want to be
A leader that can delegate
Allan Fuller (an absolute gentleman and one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting)  the Head who appointed me in my current role, was very modest with regards to his success. He said to me on more than one occasion “Jane- I’m only successful because of the appointments I’ve made and the fact that I just let people get on with it.” I personally think his success was down to much more than just this but I always remember his words and often see the result when you allow others to take responsibility and fly but always be there to catch them if they need you and things don’t quite go according to plan. Note to self- look for opportunities to delegate. There are many keen members of staff looking for an opportunity to learn and develop themselves.

I want to be
A leader that is all inclusive
I want to be a leader that values individuals for their contribution, no matter what ‘level’ they happen to be at in the organisation. I think the best diagrammatical representations are those which spread out like the solar system, with everyone orbiting the same common goal of improving the school.  Interestingly research shows that money is rarely the prime motivator. Instead respect, politeness (please and thank you go a long way) and recognition of hard work through face to face conversations makes a huge difference. Seeking someone out for praise face to face can be really rewarding coming from a senior leader. I love having the opportunity of saying to my NQTs- ‘ I was really impressed with such and such in your lesson today. Can you share what you did at our next meeting with the rest of the group because I think they’ll be really interested in that’ Note to self- in a busy world ALWAYS make time to genuinely praise staff at every level of the organisation.

And finally…
I want to be a leader that can KISS (keep it simple stupid!)
I love the KISS principle! Quite often the best and the most effective ideas are the simple ones, the common sense ones (you want to make sure a student arrives at your class on time? Then PIP and RIP- praise in public and reprimand in private- simple, but effective. No one wants to be told off in front of others) Keep it simple when discussing developmental ideas- what are the school’s true needs? How can these be developed? Is meeting after meeting productive?  Is a fifteen item agenda manageable? Is it wise to keep your staff sitting there until after 7pm at night? I guess the answer is no. I’m sure it’s tempting to get through everything in the demanding environment that we work in, but I’m of the opinion that ‘the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing’  ( let’s crack one initiative fully and embed it before we even attempt the next) Keep it simple- clear agenda, short sharp timings so that staff know exactly what time they can expect to be home or be wherever they need to be.  They’ll love us for this and it will pay dividends with sharp focused discussions. Work life balance is important.  There are so many ideas of what could be kept simple. I’d be interested to hear yours…  Note to self- remember this Colin Powell quote to remind me of the KISS principle “great leaders are almost all great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand’


So for now that’s my thoughts on leadership. I’m sure as I develop even further as a leader (whether it be inside or outside of the classroom) there’ll be other ‘wants’ that I will add to my list.

Jane Rayson – August 2015