So, following on from the first in the series about why I teach, now we move onto why I lead.
My journey into leadership was quick, I was a head at 31. I’m not going to get into the in ands out of whether people should be in headship roles at that age – it has its advantages and disadvantages, and for me in my context, I felt it was the right step to take. I was interested in school leadership right from my second year of teaching. I had just been made Maths leader and it was around the time the new national strategies needed implenting. We also had an Ofsted inspection and the data was in a bit of a state during day one. I’d been playing around with average point scores, which the current head hadn’t really looked at. As a result I spent my PPA time that afternoon working through the Year 6 targets and expected APS with the dep head and then presetning it to the inspector to show we would hit the APS for next year. We secured a satisfactory judgement, and I like to think I had a little part in that. From then on, I was just nosy about how things worked in school. That fuelled my journey to headship – I simply wanted to know what was going on and why. That desire to know meant I asked questions, which meant I found at things I wouldn’t otherwise have. The more I found out the more I wanted to know, and the more I wanted my say on what I was finding out!
So why do I lead? There are a few reasons. Firstly, as with many heads I saw ways of working that I didn’t want to emulate. I have worked in schools where the key word has been relentless. It didn’t make for a great working atmosphere and had a high turnover of staff. Work life balance was non-existent, and I knew that was something I would try not to do if I became a head. Another head made no bones about who she rated and who she didn’t. If she didn’t think you were up to much, she made sure everyone knew. Again, not a great working atmosphere. I think I lead because I want to try and be the head I wish I had when I was a teacher. Calm, but still maintaining high expectations. Making it about professional judgements and trying my best not to blur those into personal ones. Trusting people to do their jobs properly.
The other reason I lead is to make a difference. In the teaching part of this series I mentioned the same thing. Leadership is making a difference in a different way though. Leadership is about making sure that other people have all they need to be able to make a difference too. When I was a class teacher I had a direct impact on the children in my class, as a leader I can have an impact on more children by helping to create an environment where the teachers can make the biggest difference.
This is the crux of leadership for me and why I do it. It would be (relatively) easy for me to get all my files and folders in a line in my office, and make sure I could answer all the questions I might be asked in the right way. However, that would just be me looking after myself and making sure I was OK. That’s not what leadership is about. Leadership isn’t telling people where to go and then walking in front of them directing. Leadership is about working towards a goal together. If I have everything OK in my head, but teachers are struggling, not enjoying their work, or not having them impact they could be then I have to look at myself. Am I doing everything I can to help them do that? Leadership isn’t about putting yourself first, it’s about putting yourself last a lot of the time.
I also like the problem solving part of the job. For all the frustration the guidance arounf re-opening brings part of me likes to get hold of it and work through it seeing what we can and can’t do, ticking off things as we’ve managed to solve that particular problem.
Of course, leadership is frustrating too. You can’t always have the impact you want, but again that is a time for self reflection – why didn’t it go how I wanted? Getting feedback from others is so helpful, that’s why a good deputy, and some other trusted collegues can make all the difference. It can be a lonely job and there is a lot on your shoulders that no-one else can bear sometimes. It’s not always that way though. I have no problem being transparent with staff and parents aout why and how I have made a decision. Getting that input from other people makes all the difference in feeling like you are not on your own.
So, why do I lead? I lead so I can reflect on my own decisions and I lead to make a difference. I lead because I get to help people, hopefully, become better teachers and help them to make more of a difference.