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Sunday, 9 September 2012

Some Thoughts on Leadership

I've been working on material applying the Rule of Saint Benedict to school leadership, firstly for use at Trinity, but also I've been encouraged to disseminate this more widely. Hopefully this work will come to fruition at some point but its not quite there yet.
However, I thought I would just mention three  thoughts I've been having lately about leadership.
Bishop Alan Wilson, bishop of Buckingham has written some interesting posts on his excellent blog about the parish clergy and more specifically 'How to change your vicar' clearly the result of someone working closely with clergy and laity in parish churches. He describes "not being terribly good at chairing meetings is an occupational hazard for many vicars".  As a young priest 'in charge' of a daughter church I gained a good amount of experience chairing the District Church Council, the Community Centre Management Group, a management group for a couple of local community and youth workers and as Chair of Governors of the local, non-church Primary School. Looking back I am amazed I didn't make more of a hash of it than I no doubt did. I don't remember ever having any training on how to Chair meetings.
My experience of chairing continued in schools, parishes and Governing Bodies over the years and when I first became Head at Trinity I chaired both the Middle Leaders (Heads of Department etc) and the Senior Leadership Team as well as whole staff meetings. Over the last two years I have also chaired the local authority Heads group.
Finally I have also begun to read some of the literature about meetings available in printed form or on the web. 
Mostly I gave up chairing meetings after the first couple of terms in post because it just seemed impossible for me, the principal driver of change - particularly in the initial period - to also effectively chair the meeting. When I told a priest friend, residentiary canon of a busy cathedral, that I no longer Chair any meetings in school he was taken aback. 
Source
What we've come to is two things that we think help effective meetings. Firstly, the Chair needs to be someone other than the person driving change. If the regular Chair wants to propose something then it is useful for someone else to Chair that section of or the whole of the meeting. We do this at Middle and Senior level and are beginning to think about developing it at departmental and house meetings as well.
The second effective tool for good meetings is a Meeting Reviewer, appointed at the beginning of the meeting, someone other than the Chair and note maker, whose task is to evaluate the meeting and briefly report that evaluation at the end. The temptation is to give a sort of potted summary of the meeting so it takes some practice but careful monitoring of time; off task activity; outcomes; certain individuals dominating or others not speaking. It certainly focusses the mind and has helped us not to waste time. We do this at all meetings in school.
The second thought on leadership (which of course is about a lot more than chairing meetings) has been about our model of headship and is something that is still developing. Next year we will be opening a Primary phase of the school on a nearby site. In readiness for that we have appointed (internally as it happens, in both cases) a Primary and a Secondary associate Headteacher so that my official title is now 'Executive Headteacher' (although I continue to use and prefer, 'Headmaster'). This has really evolved out of having two very strong Deputy Head colleagues. We have become, I realise, a collaborative or shared headship. Although I had imagined that the headship role needed to be done by one person and been rather scathing about, for example, those religious communities who have moved to a shared leadership model I find that in practice that is what we are doing, each of us playing to our strengths and supporting one another in our weaknesses. It could just be the synergy of three people at one particular moment in an institution's life but i certainly want to explore group leadership more fully.
Thirdly, we have used an outside consultant, Giles Barrow, a Transactional Analysis coach, as a professional mentor and coach to me (he attends some of my leadership reflection days which I take each half term, at the monastery at Crawley Down), to the whole of the senior team and in other situations with groups and individuals throughout the school. His work has been invaluable as the school has gone through a rapid period of change. I would recommend any team or group to seek out someone to take on this type of role.
At the beginning of this term we worked for a day on Bishop Stephen Cotter's book Hit the Ground Kneeling, a short read it is helpful. We particularly appreciated his work on Vision and used his structure to think about the structures of the school:

Vision - Headmaster
Purpose - Associate Headteachers
Strategy - Middle Leaders
Alignment - all staff

This may not be useful long term, but it helped us to have a language to think about the role of the Middle Leaders and to separate out the roles of Executive Head and Associate Headteachers.

Well, as I say I am continuing to work on the model of Abbot and Community presented by Saint Benedict and will hopefully write in more detail about that in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Richard, thanks for this. I have posted a link to a worthwhile article on Benedict and leadership on my blog, http://ellandoccasionals.blogspot.co.uk/

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