I was recently looking for a new leadership position and this caused me to reflect in a more focused way on what my core purpose and philosophy is and how this is demonstrated in my behaviours as a leader. I have been a headteacher now for 15 years and I am very different now to how I was when I first started.
In my early years as a Head I was clumsy in my communication with staff and often wanted to avoid what I perceived as challenging conversations. I was nervous in front of parents and in delivering in front of older, more experienced colleagues. I felt anxiety about getting everything done and worried constantly about what the community was thinking about me. I expended huge amounts of energy on things which I can now see were unimportant. This is what I know now:
➡Put staff first. If we want children to get the very best provision and outcomes then we absolutely must prioritise staff development, support and well being. Without great teachers we have no great outcomes.
➡Relationships are king. Knowing your people and understanding them as individuals and as a collective is the key to getting everyone on board and moving forward together.
➡Culture beats policy every time. Without a culture created by prioritising staff and relationships it doesn’t matter what the policies say because you will only ever get people working to rule and schools rely on good will and the extra mile.
➡I am only in control of certain aspects. I cannot control policies about pay for instance, or allocated finance in my current position. Do not waste energy on things which are out of your control. Do what you can and move away from the rest.
➡Effective communication is key. Be transparent. Be honest. Be repetitive. People are busy so give them clear and consistent messages multiple times in different forms.
➡Trying to please everyone is impossible – don’t waste energy trying!
➡Know when to move on. The best school leadership timescales are between 5-8 years in post. After that, research shows decline in performance and impact. Move on and up when you reach these time frames.
I have worked hard and achieved much, both personally and professionally, over the last 5 years in my current position. I leave behind a legacy of successful projects and influences. I am moving on to my next position with energy, determination and pride; looking forward to the challenge and learning my next adventure will bring.