Leadership is often spoken about as though it is something you will undoubtedly attain – that golden chalice of being an exceptional leader being just a simple mix of determination and a few well-worn books away. In reality, the path to gaining a leadership role in education is far from easy. Navigating the complex world of battling against systemic bias, discovering your own vision, values and voice, alongside competing against dozens of other candidates for the usual ‘entry level’ leadership role of assistant headteacher, can seem insurmountable. Firstly, you need to know whether or not you feel ready to take on this role.
Ultimately – are you ready to take on accountability for the safety and success of the students and colleagues in your school?
A responsibility and a privilege
The responsibility for safety has very much taken a front seat of school leadership in recent times, and serves to highlight the potential weight of the role of a school leader. But leading a school is also a joyous privilege!
The satisfaction of unpicking complex conundrums, turning layers of knots into separate, clear strands, of discerning your vision and want for everyone in the school, of pushing, fighting, relentlessly striving to make your plan a reality, leads to a fulfillment like no other.
The power to have positive impact
In school leadership, you have the unrivalled power to impact positively on the lives of tens of thousands of children. Not only will you provide the circumstances under which the students currently on roll in your school will flourish, but you will be providing their future families with the life chances and support for them to thrive too. Under your leadership, you will inspire your colleagues to better themselves, grow and develop to become leaders themselves, going on to assuredly influence the futures of yet more young people.
Are you ready?
Once you know that you feel ready, how can you demonstrate this readiness? Below are some suggestions, along with questions to ask yourself to begin preparing for your first leadership role:
1. Self-audit and self-improve
- Where does your passion lie?
- What are your key strengths?
- What are areas you know a lot about?
- What are your opinions on different aspects of education?
- Do you have a unique insight or viewpoint?
- What are the areas you know little about, or have little experience in?
- Are your answers to the above really true?
2. Find your network
- Do you have a mentor within your current school’s leadership team?
- Do you have a champion?
- Do you have a challenger?
- Do you have a coach?
3. Invite feedback
- Do you know how others perceive you as a leader?
- What do you already know about yourself as a leader?
- What external feedback have you received?
- How might you act upon this feedback?
4. Demonstrate impact
- Do your students achieve excellent results?
- Do your colleagues succeed after following your advice?
- Do you learn from your mistakes?
- Are you strategic in your approach to improvement?
5. Raise your profile
- Can you ask someone to support you to raise your profile?
- Can you ask for opportunities?
- Can you create your own opportunities?
- Do you have evidence-based proof of your impact?
- Do you celebrate your successes?
- Are you open to receiving feedback?
6. Lead without a title
- Are you modelling high standards in every aspect of your work?
- Are you challenging low expectations?
- Are you maintaining a good standard of teaching whilst pursuing leadership?
- Are you visible?
- Are you choosing your battles wisely?
- Are you lifting others?
The above questions form the very start for an aspiring leader to be ready for the huge responsibility, privilege, and yes, joy of school leadership.