Sunday, 6 March 2016

Teacher Journey (Part 3) - Leaders need a telescope and a microscope

Leadership is a theme that is prevalent in the current discourse of education and teacher professionalism. Leaders can be defined as, by the Oxford Dictionary Online as “the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country”. In education, leaders were considered to be individual who were promoted to a ‘leadership role’ such as Head of Department or Senior Leader. This view is changing as the notion of teacher leadership takes hold, but in this post I will consider the skills, attitudes and dispositions needed for more traditional leadership roles.

Leaders in promoted leadership roles will take account of the Standard for Leadership and Management, which includes both the Standard for Middle Leadership and the Standard for Headship. This standard lays the foundations for professionalism and challenges in promoted leadership roles, which is required by all middle leaders and head teachers, and supports leaders to consider continuous improvement for themselves and the whole school community. The Standard for Leadership and Management, as with the other standards, is underpinned by the themes of professional values, sustainability and leadership. Professional values are demonstrated through all of our professional relationships and practices and is at the core of professional leadership. 

Leaders must remember that policy is “both a product and process” Bell and Stevenson (2006), that helps guide the development of both curriculum and staff capacity to allow the school to deliver a quality experience for students. Policy development is a “product of compromise, negotiation, dispute and struggle” Bell and Stevenson (2006), and leaders have to maintain an overview of both the product in the curriculum provision, to allow pupils to achieve their potential and also the process to allow staff ownership of the curriculum they teach.

To be a successful school leader, leaders need to take into account opposing views on the purposes of education from all stakeholders and produce a coherent and workable solution. This involves developing, managing and interpreting policy for the school community and then supporting its implementation through colleagues.

School leaders are challenged to support their community to develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and practices needed to take decisions which are compatible with a sustainable future in a just and equitable world. Each pupil as an individual, should be given opportunities to enhance their talents and strengths, and to skill themselves for the global marketplace into which they will emerge. It is the leaders’ responsibility to make sure that there is a multi-agency approach to reaching this goal. Along with the autonomy within the local authority setting, leaders are accountable to the stakeholders, especially the students, for providing opportunities for excellent learning experiences leading to attainment and achievement.
Leaders are also challenged to engage in partnership working that benefits their learnings and their learning community. Head teachers and middle leaders supported through the Standard for Leadership and Management foster collegiate working and deploy coaching and mentoring as appropriate to develop leadership capacity in others.

Successful leaders need to continue to seek improvement in their own skills and abilities. A report entitled ‘Decoding leadership: What really matters’ suggests that there are some common leadership traits that correlate to successful leadership. These are;
Solving problems effectively – problem solving through gathering and analysing the impact of pieces of information leads then to decision making.
Operating with a strong results orientation:  in an education context this means keeping a focus on pupil attainment and achievement.
Seeking different perspectives – this means involving the community and then making informed decisions to achieve the best experiences for students. As Fullan (2001) states “Effective leaders listen attentively—you can almost hear them listening”.
Supporting others – by building trust and inspire others to improve student outcomes.

If all of this seems daunting them perhaps it can be simplified into the statement;
‘Leaders need a telescope and a microscope’
The telescope allows school leaders to see future opportunities and the microscope help to focus on the day to day needs of the community.


 Barton, A, Grant, A, & Horn M. (2012) Leading in the 21st century: Six global leaders confront the personal and professional challenges of a new era of uncertainty.

Collins, J. (2001). Good to Great. New York: Harper Collins.
Hendricks, C. Blog post: The role of the teacher should be privileged over any leadership role:

Feser, C. Mayol, F & Srinivsan, R. (2105) Decoding leadership: What really matters

Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in a Culture of Change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey–Bass.

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