Being a leader is complicated, especially in schools. There are so many variables and factors to be considered it is impossible to get it right all of the time. Anybody who says they have is deluding themselves. As with all things, humans are fallible. We make mistakes.
To be effective as a school leader we need to successfully undertake a combination of roles. Sometimes we need to lead, at other times mange or coach.
I found Jeb Blount’s definitions in ‘People Follow You’ to be particularly helpful.
Leading is shaping the workplace through vision, innovation and inspiration. It is moving people emotionally to make that vision a tangible reality.
Managing is shaping work, projects, tasks and outcomes through a system of organizing, planning and directing.
Coaching is the ongoing process of shaping and developing people through training, observation, feedback and follow up – in real time and on the job.
Blount, People Follow You, 2012, Wiley
It isn’t a matter of choosing which ONE you want to do. As leaders in schools we need to demonstrate and be proficient in all three. The ratio of each will vary depending on your role and the size of the school.
I’d argue that the area that school leaders have historically not done as well, is coaching. The increased emphasis on accountability, standards and league tables (apart from just selling newspapers) is in response to concerns that not enough emphasis has been placed on observation, feedback and follow up.
A void has been filled by the lowest common denominator – simplistic instruments.
However developments over the last few years have sharpened the focus in schools on achieving quality outcomes for all students…and that is what we all want.
Blount makes an interesting and challenging statement about leaders. He states leaders need their people more than they need you! He further illustrates his statement by explaining that leaders get paid for what their people do, NOT for what they themselves do.
Broadly speaking I believe that it is true of school leaders. The real ‘work’ of schools takes place in the classroom and is facilitated by teachers. The KEY role of school leaders is to support and ## the work of teachers and help them to be the best teacher they can be. This is evident in John Hattie’s research.
“Through leading, managing and coaching you must create an environment in which they can develop their skills, leverage their talents and win. You must remove roadblocks so that they can get the job done. You need them more than they need you. Anything that you can do that impedes their success hurts you!”
Blount, 2012, p.19
Whilst this sounds like leaders aren’t valued, it is intended to highlight the importance of putting our people first. No wonder leadership is so complicated!