Saturday, June 17, 2017

Trust in leadership

I've been thinking a lot about leadership recently.  This started with the "surprise" results of the UK general election last week, where the Prime Minister went into the election to gain more seats and actually lost a lot of seats to the opposition, whose leader was seen as being a bit of a loony leftist but also as someone with integrity.  Then this week there has been another huge backlash against the Prime Minister following the Grenfell Tower fire where she has been described as "cold as a fish" for not meeting with the victims' families.  Of course "over the pond" there are similar questions being asked of leadership in the US - along with how far can anyone trust what is being said, and how much news is "fake news"?

As I'm writing an educational blog, I don't want this to get political.  Rather I want to reflect on leadership skills and how these can be applied to education.  

A couple of years ago when I started Cognitive Coaching I learned some new things about trust, and one of the interesting things was that we expect a different sort of trust in our leaders than in our colleagues.  With leaders, be it of a country, a business or a school, we are looking for mutual respect, which involves genuinely listening to what people are saying, competence, consistency and integrity. With our colleagues the order of these is different, with competency being less important than caring, honesty, openness and reliability.  

Digging a little deeper, today I read an article from the Harvard Business Review on the skills that innovative leaders have in common.  These are different again, bearing in mind that innovation is a difficult quality to cultivate.  However a study of around 5,000 leaders showed that innovative leaders share the following competencies:
  • experimenting with new approaches while at the same time managing risk
  • demonstrating curiosity
  • leading with confidence and authority
  • being proactive and seizing opportunities
  • being adept at identifying strategic opportunities and threats
Reading through this I started to think about how this could apply to schools.  For example every year there are new initiatives (curriculum, standards, etc.) and could the skills of innovative leaders be brought to bear on these so that implementation is more successful and has more buy-in?  Relevant suggestions from the article that would apply to schools include:
  • creating a learning community to encourage the free flow of new knowledge and perspectives
  • stimulating new thinking by examining mistakes and setbacks as opportunities to learn
  • making time for developmental activities
  • being prepared to deal with people's reactions
  • being assertive and not aggressive - looking for win-win solutions
  • recognising and appreciating leadership qualities in others and involving multiple people in the planning
For myself, though I'm not part of the Leadership Team at ASB, I'm going to be coaching the tech integration coaches throughout the school, and I'm considering which of the facets of trust are going to be the most important to pay attention to next year.  I think I'm already well known for supporting teachers, appreciating their effort and promoting positive interactions (benevolence) and feel I would also score high on integrity, honouring agreements and being authentic (honesty) as well as communicating and sharing information (openness).  But how about the other traits that are most respected in leaders - competence and consistency?  When I consider consistency I think most people would regard me as dependable and reliable.  Generally I think I'm seen as a person who works hard and sets standards.  As far as competence goes I think I could work harder on problem solving, conflict resolution and handling difficult situations:  basically what I am hoping is to develop a more solution-focused approach to the myriad of challenges we are facing in integrating technology throughout the curriculum.

Onwards and upwards!

Photo Credit: PicActs Flickr via Compfight cc

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