Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Romance and reality. Two sides of the educational coin

In a school where 40% of the senior leadership changed this year and half the team will be new within a 12 month window, it is not surprising that there has been a high rate of resignations. The negatives of this are a loss of expertise and the ethos built up over time in a school is held by staff. The ethos can quickly change. Fragile in the face of change, needing protection and care. Only if the community feels the ethos is still wanted.

The other side of the coin comes from predicting the next 12 months. Having interviewed new colleagues joining us and interviewing the new TLR restructured post holders, there is a rose-tinted vision of what the future holds. It is uplifting to see their enthusiasm, untainted by any reality.

If new colleagues and new TLR holders arrive with the romance, isn't it morally important for SLT to foster and build this amongst all colleagues? Indeed a bridging programme for 2 sectors of staff would be useful. Through buddy coaching and personalised CPD opportunities it must be possible to keep the romantic vision of teaching and leadership alive. A school wide CPD programme is important for key levers, however time is needed for reflection. Mindfulness is the new ideology for students but staff would benefit too.

That spark of romance also needs to stand up to the daily rigours of learning walks, drop ins, SLT wandering and formal progress meetings. Will there be support to build on aspirations or will there be a dip like Year 7 students often experience? 

I have used twitter as a personal version of CPD. Outward looking and taking the opportunity to go to @Sltcamp helped network with leaders who cling on to the romantic vision of teaching, despite the daily rigours of reality. Inspite of an OFSTED visit in term 4 I look forward to the next 12 months to address issues all of us agreed upon.

The challenge is to hold onto the vision!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Emotion in leadership

I signed up to BELMAS this year and have dipped into the journals from time to time. One article from the March issue caught my eye this evening.
Emotion in leadership
The article looks at how emotion impacts on leadership. I was interested to read about the idea of emotion being a taboo subject and was interested in how Yamamoto et al discuss this. Karpinski's study of a keen female assistant principal and her unremarkable male principal stressed ability and expectation over emotion. Emotion was not taken into consideration in the learning journey to effective leadership resulting in a lack of trust in the leadership partnership.
I understood the discussion of expected and even prescribed emotional displays. The true conflict for any leader must be when they do not agree with the expected emotional response and have to act pleased, annoyed or truly happy with decisions taken by others. Indeed the act of suppressing feelings to sustain the outward show of expected emotion can be truly draining. I wonder at what point leaders then either become very good at pretending or indeed convince themselves they do believe for that authentic emotional response.
Again I agreed with the idea of EI positively affecting teachers' job satisfaction. Middle and senior leaders EI in sync with a school is pivotal to staff well-being. If leaders and teachers are forcing the accepted emotional response the working environment becomes untenable for colleagues.
As Yamamoto et al discuss the need for leaders to bring their authentic selves to the workplace, how then can leaders wear a mask of accepted emotional response? This surely is a juxtaposition as not every decision will be agreed with in a school?
It is only while reading this article that I start to understand how the emotion of the leader affects the emotions of the staff and this in turn affects the emotional well being of students. Interesting how the article suggests that secondary school principles have given little thought to the role of emotions. Indeed Yamamoto et al point to leaders who ignore or downplay emotions as leading to organisational problems. 
Is this why there has been an increase in senior leader roles looking at staff training and well-being? In secondaries yet not in primaries?
The notion of culturally accepted silence must be a toxic situation? If inner dialogue is in conflict with external emotions leadership is not harnessing staff confidence in their decisions. In an atmosphere of fear, where emotions are seen as a weakness leaders are not entering into dialogue with staff who may have a logical response to a situation yet are afraid to show their response due to the organisation's expected emotional response.
I have had the pleasure to experience transformational leaders during my career. Their emotional intelligence ensured that they truly inspired and motivated. Even when some of their ideas maybe should have been challenged. As a leader I would like to harness what I have learnt from them.
At times reflecting on poor decisions, embracing feedback and accepting you don't have the answers, will aid trust within a school. Having no EI will neither foster trust, nor build a team.
There is a need for leaders to willingly acknowledge that decisions made in schools emotionally impact on staff and students.
Scant regard for emotions will lead to a toxic environment. Accepting that there is a need for give and take makes for that transformational place of work with can do people.
Having reflected on my current environment and leaders around me. I conclude with the decision that embracing emotion will make me an authentic leader, masking emotion will lead to inner conflict. To ensure motivation, staff need to know their emotions are important.