Tag Archives: Leadership Lessons

The Key to being Future Focused

8 Jan


How can you be a visionary leader in schools?

Self-awareness, and the willingness to adjust underlying mindsets, behaviors and competencies, is essentially the “price of entry” for anyone seeking to be an effective, visionary leader.

Effective leadership development programs can help alleviate some of these concerns by taking a more data-based approach. When objective assessments are used to help leaders be more transparent with themselves and take charge of their own development, much of the discomfort can be removed from the process.

The willingness of leaders to undergo self-awareness and be open-minded to the development of key skills can pay dividends in not only how they lead, but how they are perceived by others.

What is the key then?


Be courageous

Have a plan

Lead change

And listen.

Have you any tips for those in leadership in our schools?

Are we being good role models?

9 Sep


Lots of random thoughts this week. I have been thinking after my travels this week What is the future of education?  Perhaps that is the wrong question.  To get closer to the heart of my initial question, maybe I should pose a different question. Where is the future of education? Now that not only asks the question but answers it as well.  The future of education is sitting in the seats our classrooms today, so how is the future of education doing?  Does the future of education even want to accept the challenge of becoming the future of education?

We have lots of daughter of teachers at our school. None are interested in the teaching profession. Of the thousand students that have my school in the last eight years only five percent of showed an interest in becoming a teacher?

That means that 95 percent of our students are completely turned off to education as a viable career choice. I must admit that I am one of those 95 percent. When I was at school, I had no desire to become an educator. In fact, I had a teacher that regularly told his class that the worst profession ever is the field of education, public education specifically.

What profession do students get exposed to more than any other profession? The answer is education. They see every day the stress, hard work, and frustration that teachers deal with daily. They see the way the system works, and could it be that very reason that 95% of our students do not want to even consider a career in education?

There are many reasons that students don’t choose a career in education. The first reason is money, and that is something that our government and our country must address if we want the future of education to improve. Teachers deserve to make more money than they do.

Secondly, the teaching profession is belittled on a regular basis. Think about every movie about the education profession that you’ve ever seen. The setting is a disastrous school with horrible students, and only one teacher, the main character, cared about education while the rest of the educators did not. Furthermore, the media perpetuates the false narrative that education is failing.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but the negative perception is the reality of education, and it influences our students every day not to choose the noblest profession as a career.

But I think the last reason (and more important reason) that students don’t choose education as a career, is that we, educators, fail to market the profession as a noble profession. Think about the way we speak about education.  Think about the interactions that we have with our peers about problems in education.

Our students are listening. Our students are watching. Our students are being influenced daily about the profession we have been called to.  Do our words, do our actions, and more importantly do our reactions influence our students to come to the profession or run from it as fast as they can?
The last point that I would like to make has to do with education leaders. What are we doing to our teachers that makes our students see teaching as an awesome profession? All of the work that we ask teachers to do, does it help them, or does it overwhelm them? Are we asking teachers to do the right things, or the cliché things that ultimately don’t lead to positive results or more importantly excited and empowered teachers?

Our students are watching. Our students are listening. And our students are being influenced by the way we leaders value or devalue our teachers and support staff.

What do you think?

Treat Meetings Like A Class

8 Aug


How do you believe meetings and professional events could be more productive?  Can we perhaps share positive experiences and ideas about how we can make the most of meetings? As a school leader I spend I great deal of my time in meetings. Some this week have gone well. Others not so well. So here are some thoughts.

  1. Meetings need to be carefully planned and thoughtfully structured.  We would expect meetings certainly to have agendas, circulated in advance so that those present can prepare themselves, mentally and practically, for whatever is to be covered.  If you are responsible for compiling such an agenda, ask yourself: are your own items dominating, or have others had a fair and reasonable chance to contribute? Is the order of the items sensible, with the most crucial issues covered earlier on when the group is fresher, and the later items able to be deferred to another meeting if the timing does go askew?
  2. When planning a meeting or event, can you be clear at the outset what you want to achieve by the end?  What do you want those present to think about/be able to do as a result of being there?  How is that best achieved?
  3. It is worth considering how receptive and responsive you are as a meeting chair.  If you want real engagement and involvement there needs to be the opportunity for members of the meeting or the event to consider key questions, to reflect individually, in pairs or small groups and exchange views and opinions, perhaps to provoke and challenge each other, but in a professional, supportive and productive way which leads to development in our thinking.  Can you gather ideas from those assembled and use whatever is expressed in a constructive and helpful way, even if – in fact, especially if! – it is not what you hoped to hear?  It may not be appropriate for decisions to be taken in a meeting, but the discussion within the meeting, robustly recorded and subsequently carefully considered.
  4. Think about how much of your meeting time focuses on the operational rather than the strategic or developmental.  If the relatively low-level operational tends to dominate, consider scheduling in occasional strategic meetings with one-item agendas, perhaps led by different members of the group.  This could be an opportunity for all involved to give thought to, exchange views on and ideas about, something fundamental, something you can really get your teeth into, which will make a difference to how the team and the school operate, and the learners benefit.
  5. Use minutes/action points/recorded outcomes appropriately to ensure that what was considered and learnt is captured, remembered and used.  If those present can see that the gathering was productive, that their voices were listened to and that this led to something worthwhile, their contribution to future meetings and events is likely to be more committed and energized.

What do you think?


Leadership Reflection Term 2

16 Jul


Leadership is hard but it’s also important. Vitally important. And it begins with how leaders treat people. Ineffective leaders are those who have all of the attributes from the above list. Have you worked for one? What would you do differently?

Understand however, that we can have situations where we may show one of those attributes in the ineffective list. For example, maybe we spend too much time being reactive. Is it possible to survey, interview and create focus groups of stakeholders to help us understand our current reality to help change from ineffective to effective? Can we work with a leadership coach to help us create a goal and achieve it?

Leadership isn’t about getting what we want and feeding our egos. Leadership is about raising the self-efficacy of others and collectively working to improve our school community together. That happens in creative communities more than it happens in compliant communities.

In Jim Knight’s work he talks a lot about status. Leaders have it because of their position. However, great leaders have status, but they lower theirs and raise the status of those around them, which is often referred to self-efficacy. Unfortunately, there are leaders who let their ego rule and that’s what they lead with every time.

Leadership Reading

11 Jul


The Balcony View is not a new concept in leadership. It is well documented that the balcony allows leaders to observe and take a strategic overview of what is going on.

I have been reading the work of Heifetz and Linksy in their book Leadership on the Line encourage leaders to get on the balcony and adopt adaptive leadership.

The analogy of being on a dance floor, being part of the action makes it difficult for leaders to see who isn’t technically dancing or who is moving in the wrong direction. By getting on the balcony leaders afford them-self with time to reflect on the bigger picture.

Leadership in schools is always active, it is busy and it is tiring. At times we don’t afford ourselves time to be fully reflective. I think that my office is a bit of a laundry room. I am the washing machine. Staff call in to often offload their problems and concerns. I work with them listen to the problem – add a bit of comfort but never fix them. That is so important.

By sitting on the balcony, we have oversight of the situation, we can mobilize the right people in the right way to effect school improvement.

Sometimes I’m too busy dancing and juggling during action to the appreciate it. I probably don’t withdraw enough.

Perhaps our team needs to take a proper time out.


Being a Courageous School Leader

9 Jul


As Brené Brown says, “You can’t get to courage without rumbling with vulnerability.” This means having the courage to show up fully when you can’t control the outcome. It’s about being vulnerable in your relationships inside and outside the workplace.

Vulnerability feels like being excited and afraid all at the same time. You feel you must do or say something, yet the inner voice you have tells you it might not be safe to do so. It takes vulnerability to delay action and step into a coaching conversation to help a team member find their own answers.

As a school leader I constantly need to work on stepping into tough conversations and providing honest and productive feedback, which requires this mindset. When it comes to providing feedback, I reflect on the following:

  • When you focus on clarity, you increase trust and decrease negative attitudes. Being clear creates more connection and empathy. Clarity also creates a boundary that allows the other person to decide what to do with the feedback.
  • Understand who you are and what makes you tick. When you’re triggered, do you try to control the situation, protect yourself or start people pleasing?

Being prepared and getting clear on what you believe and check that your intentions, words, thoughts and behaviors align with your beliefs. I name your values by writing them down and then identify core behaviors that represent how you might live those values. If they do not meet, then I am off course?

I observe courageous leaders who live their values instead of just talking about them are never silent about hard things. As a leader, I must be aware of what is going on around me. You must realize when to act and know that sometimes you need to act in difficult situations. It takes courage to recognize these opportunities for leadership and to set an example for your team. Making decisions that honor your values will be tough because doing the right thing is rarely easy.

Being a trusting and trustworthy leader means being someone people can count on to do what you say you will do, including acting within your competencies and limitations. Own your mistakes and make amends. Accountability means that when there is an error, you’re willing to ask yourself, “What part did I play in this?”

Enjoy Term 3.


Being a Busy Leader

21 Nov


Manaaki Tāngata.

We are there to support and care for the people

Don’t you love watching people? It is always fascinating at conferences or meetings. At every break there is invariably the rush to the door, device to the ear or email being checked just checking in.

What do truly great leaders occupy themselves with? What takes their time, what do they prioritize, what should be important and why?

I heard a good phrase this week, “I’m not busy, I’m distracted”.

Leaders don’t have to the busiest people at school the most stressed, do the most hours, do the mahi for others, be the hero against whose everyone else’s measures their worth. Instead they should be good role models for a healthy work-life balance. I need to do this better personally.

Leaders should never be too busy that they become inaccessible: the person that no one wants to disturb because their issues would seem insignificant by contrast.

I like to set goals for the things I would like to achieve in a day. I must constantly remind myself that sometimes the distraction may be far important than the goal, particularly if it is to do with the people you serve. The moment you set yourself goals that can only be achieved behind your desk you are moving from leading to managing.

The staff member who comes into your office wanting the vent, or who is just in need of a sympathetic ear. It is in fostering these relationships, the giving of your time, that a leader is doing their most important work. It is then that they are building trust, and ultimately trust is far more important to an organisation because it unlocks the huge potential of the ‘we’.

There is nothing wrong with being busy, but what you are saying when you go on about it you don’t have time for others, you don’t have the time to cultivate what is the most important task of a leader. As a leader one of your key jobs is building the capacity of others and empowering them to do their roles so you can achieve the organisation’s vision together. We must remember the people. The students. The staff. The community.

Remember, you should never be too busy for the people you serve.

Be the best you can be

9 Jul


I want to be the very best school leader I can be. Why, because for me being a principal (or a teacher for that matter) is more than a job, it’s a vocation. I don’t go to work to produce something, to sell something, or to manage something. I go to work to make a difference. And that difference is measured in people’s lives.

What I do, the decisions I make, the school culture I create, the way I lead will make a difference in countless people’s lives. It can make a difference to the earning capacity of a young person; it can make a difference to a person’s sense of self-worth, to their well-being, the lives of their families. The sense of responsibility is huge.

I often compare myself with other leaders, listen to what they do, learn from their wisdom and experience. However, one thing I really need as a leader is feedback. Without feedback I cannot truly understand the real impact I am having and how I can improve.

To promote growth feedback is vital. But to be of real value a recipient really needs to want it, be willing to listen to it and ultimately, have the desire to be the very best they can be for the responsibly they carry as an educator is enormous.

The same can be said about teaching. I don’t understand why all teachers aren’t driven by the enormous responsibility they have to very best they can be. Our children, and their children deserve outstanding teaching and outstanding schools.

Do you value and welcome feedback? What motivates you as an educator? Is teaching and school leadership more than just a job? If you are a leader, where do you get your feedback from?

Being a Growth-Mindset Leader

27 Jun


This week I made that mistake that is one of the worst. The greatest mistake you can make as a leader is believing that you are better than anyone else; better than you really are.

This week I found myself falling into this trap. I must fight against it, my ego wanting to be fed. Sometimes (ok it is rare) I think that because I am leader I have to be the font of all knowledge, the wisest person in the room, the judge, jury and executioner. I fall into the trap of believing in my own abilities rather than drawing on the collective wisdom and experience of those around me.

According to Carol Dweck, author of “Mindset”, fixed mindset leaders live in a world where some people are superior and some are inferior. They must repeatedly affirm that they are superior.

Leaders with a fixed mindset do not admit or correct their mistakes or deficiencies. They’re constantly trying to prove they’re better than others. Fixed mindset leaders don’t want teams. They want to be the only ‘big fish’ so that when they compare themselves with others they can feel a cut above the rest. They try to intimidate people with their brilliance.

In contrast, wise leaders with a growth mindset seek out the counsel of others, seeking to hear different points of view before making a decision. They have the humility to hand over decisions that really aren’t in their expertise or ability.

Growth mindset leaders don’t define themselves by their position or the organisation they work for. They don’t fall into the trap that so many of us do, of focusing on the institution itself rather than the very purpose for its existence, with the institution and our position within it becoming a reflection of our reputation, something to protect at all costs.

This not you? Then why do we only seek the counsel of those we know will agree with us? Why do we shift the blame and never say sorry? This is my work on next term.


Doing it Better

21 Oct


I have a lot on my plate at the moment. Last week I worked over 60 hours at school with many crucial meetings and by the time Friday came around I was tired. As a result, I made a couple of errors and let standards slip. Part of being a good leader though, is recognising when that occurs and doing something about it. And here I go doing something about it.

Yes, I know that leadership in schools in the 21st century is complex and challenging and most of the time I feel like I’m on top of things. On Friday night, it took me one km in the pool that night and a rigorous 8km run on Saturday morning to finally gain control of my emotions and to think it all through and plan a way forward.

You see, there are times when you are tested as a leader, often when you least expect it. The most important thing that I have learned as a leader is to work on your self-leadership skills. If you can’t lead yourself, then you will never, ever lead others successfully.

So what did I learn:

  • Breathe deeply and give yourself time to think. Consider that sometimes your biggest problem may be your biggest opportunity. Choose actions that will make you a better person. Actions that are aligned to your values and reflect what you love to do.
  • Use a Growth Mindset. A Growth Mindset ensures strategies to keep learning and growing. A Fixed Mindset will stall your growth and development and you will find yourself blaming others.
  • Remember that working your way through problems and frustrations will develop your resilience.
  • Remember that it’s not always about you. It’s about what you can do to help others grow and develop.
  • Always focus on learning. What am I learning and how can I improve.
  • There is always tomorrow. The staff at our school are reading one of four books over the summer holidays.

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