My top three characteristics that I believe are absolutely crucial for excellent leadership are below. Clearly not everyone will agree with me. This is just my opinion.
Teachers lead their pupils in their classrooms and the best of them have these 3 qualities. SLT lead in their schools as do middle managers. Again, the best of them will have these 3 characteristics.
Having a clear vision about which you are passionate. Every leader says they have a vision. But do they? If they cannot say what distinguishes their organisation or classroom from most others in a few sentences, then I’m not sure they have one. They should have a USP.
If you are just doing what everyone else is doing, then something is seriously wrong, especially when the British education system is in such desperate need of a revolution.
And remember, no vision ever has bureaucratic tasks attached to it. EVER! Bureaucracy kills vision.
Step away from the bureaucracy… run for your lives! If you ever catch yourself consumed by it, you need to ask yourself what you’re doing, what it’s for, who is benefitting from it, and would the world blow up if you just didn’t do it?
Owning the vision/organisation and being able to make hard decisions and hold the line. This might mean being hated & targeted. It might mean vilification and attacks from all sides. I know fellow Heads who have made hard decisions on uniform will know exactly where I’m coming from on this. It might mean excluding a pupil from a classroom, or putting the pupil isolation. It means not allowing unreasonable parents to make unreasonable demands.
It means having standards and not allowing excuse-making to get in the way. It means supporting those who fail to meet those standards precisely by refusing to lower those very standards.
It means holding the line, even when Ofsted stands in the way.
Having the ability to inspire ACTION and TRANSFORMATION. This might come from leading by example, by being efficient and organised or hard-working. This might come from using one’s emotional intelligence or knowing how to get a bunch of disparate people to work as a team, to feel as if they are part of a family, to understand loyalty, trust and commitment.
If staff or pupils won’t act for their leader or won’t change for their leader, won’t reach for that vision with their leader (whether that is to master French verbs in silence or to step out into the ring and dare to do things differently), then something is wrong with the leadership. And I’d say this means the leader needs to change something in what they are doing.
As Antoine de Saint-Exupery says, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
Tasks, work, collecting wood… all part of the never-ending bureaucratic nightmare that can consume a classroom or a school.
Jump overboard and swim forwards with all the energy and determination you’ve got so that you and your staff and pupils can master and bathe in the endless immensity of the sea.