How to Grow Leaders
Some organisations excel at developing and creating leaders. They are blessed by talented leadership at all levels; they send people on to bigger and better things and maintain a healthy progression internally. Given the importance now attached to developing leaders in schools, what lessons can be learned from best practice in other sectors?
The practical steps are particularly interesting:
Develop a school policy on leadership development, build commitment to it among the senior team and communicate it widely to staff. Don’t do this until you are confident you can implement the policy, however, and take care to emphasise the time and sacrifice required. If the common response is “yes, but …” then you need to work on demonstrating the value of leadership development to your school. This should not be a one-off activity, but should ideally be repeated annually.
Revisit your strategy. What are you trying to achieve over the next five years? How is your world changing? What are the few things the school will have to get right to achieve those goals in that world? What are the implications for leadership? What sort of leaders will you need? What skills and knowledge will they require? What attitudes, perceptions and self-image? How should they behave and act?
There may be more than one answer to these questions for different sorts of role. Capture these in a document which speaks to your school’s needs in your language and which inspires the imagination. Make sure you have the smallest number of criteria practical.
Inventory the leadership positions within your school, including those you expect to have in the future which may be non-existent or embryonic today. Given your goals, which of these are the most important – where is the fate of your school decided? Connect your definition of leadership to these roles and fine tune the characteristics to apply even more precisely. Prioritise development on these roles, and be sure to communicate openly why they are high priority. Consider also the people within your school. Who are effective leaders already? Who has leadership potential? At what stage in their development are those with potential and what challenges do they need next?
Ensure that the most effective leaders are in the most critical roles and that those with the highest potential are positioned to receive the challenges they need. Discuss the progress of the high potential leaders as a senior team on a regular basis. Create a single integrated suite of leadership development opportunities which combine specific on-the-job challenges, job shadowing, coaching and mentoring, group debates and ‘learning sets’, out of school training programmes and academic study. Tailor these to individual’s development plans, selecting the interventions that add most value to them at their particular stage of development.
Set success criteria for each development intervention and for each individual’s development plan. Ideally, they should be tangible and objective. Following the Kirkpatrick model, data can be collected at several levels: participant feedback and opinion, assessment of learning (for knowledge and skill), change in behaviour (feedback from colleagues is particularly effective here) and improvement in organisational results (usually integrated into performance management discussions). Senior leaders should review the data on the success of leadership development activities and adapt the portfolio accordingly, individual data should be integrated into performance management and development discussions. Connect leadership development activities to the SEF and to individual performance management. Any line manager should have targets for the identification and development of staff with leadership potential under their management. Hold individuals accountable for the fulfilment of their own development plans too.