Jun 1, 2020
Welcome to Episode 40. This is a very exciting day as it’s the first day of the month in which my book, For Flourishing’s Sake, will be published. Due to disruption caused by Covid-19, the book will be published twice, which means two opportunities to celebrate! The Kindle version is coming out on 18th June and the paperback will be out a bit later this summer, on 21st August.
So today, I thought I would talk about one of the themes from the book that I feel is particularly relevant to the challenges we are all living through: Leadership. According to the VIA Institute on Character, the character strength of leadership can be split into the distinct areas of ‘practice’ and ‘personal quality’. As a practice, this is what we do that makes us leaders, by “defining, establishing, identifying or translating direction” and as a personal quality, it’s our desire and ability to aim for, accede to and ultimately carry out leadership roles. The VIA further distinguish between ‘transactional leaders’ and ‘transformational leaders’. We need both, of course, but in the book I focused mainly on transformational leadership.
Anyone can be a leader. Paul Bateson is one of the teachers I interviewed for my book.
He is a shining example of committed leadership from someone not in a leadership position. When he decided to launch a kindness initiative in his school, the ripples spread far and wide. He fired up the imaginations of his students, who took ownership of the initiative, and brought most of the staff on board. He did this despite a leadership team who, whilst ‘putting up no resistance’, did not facilitate what he was doing or make any moves towards adopting a whole school approach.
(Roberts, F. “For Flourishing’s Sake”, Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2020)
What can we learn from Paul Bateson? In the UK, some schools are “re-opening” this week - I’m putting this in inverted commas as schools here haven’t actually been closed. Children of key workers, along with the most vulnerable children, have still been going to school, as have many teachers. But this week, more children will return to school. In other countries, children have been back at school for a little while. But school is not what those children and their teachers were used to. We are all having to adapt to teaching, learning and interacting differently for the foreseeable future. Teachers and school leaders, and in fact all staff working in schools, can follow Paul’s example. In his case, he led a kindness initiative; kindness would be a great place to start to help each other cope with the challenges we’re all facing. Tempers are likely to be a bit more frayed than usual, so we can all focus on leading through showing patience and understanding towards others, taking a moment to respond if we think our answers may come out a bit ‘snappy’, or accepting that others may be a little less friendly towards us as it may just be their way of handling the situation.
Children can be leaders, too. When I interviewed Jo Owens, Director of Ethical Leadership at Lichfield Cathedral School, she told me that at her school, the junior school have ‘red caps’ - year 4 pupils who look out for other children who don’t have anyone to play with during break times and engage them in games. This is harder to do when children need to be in bubbles and observe strict distancing rules, of course, but particularly when things are so unsettling, giving even very young children small positions of leadership and responsibility can divert their focus away from their fears and allow them to feel useful. And let’s not forget that helping others is a great way to support wellbeing, so when children have the opportunity to help out in school, this will support their own wellbeing.
So spend a few moments to think about the different ways you can be a transformational leader; a leader who, according to the VIA, “motivates their followers to perform at an extremely high level, fostering a climate of trust and commitment to the organisation and its goals”. Perhaps set yourself a challenge to identify people who have inspired you in this way, and make a list of what qualities they display, and how they behave, in order to be such transformational leaders. Whilst still being you, can you emulate any of those qualities and behaviours? What can you learn from great leaders you have followed?
And think about which children are showing this leadership quality and can be encouraged to lead their peers. I know from working in many schools over the years that there are ample examples of such leadership to be found in school staff and pupils. Let’s nurture these leadership qualities so that we can all weather this storm with a little more ease, together.
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The book, by the same name, is coming out on Kindle on 18th June and on paperback on 21st August. It’s available to pre-order from major online book retailers and is jam-packed with evidence-based strategies for whole school positive education with case study examples from a wide range of schools from around the world. So why not order your copy now, so you will receive it as soon as it’s published?
If you’d like to get in touch with questions or comments, or to contribute to a future episode, please contact me via Twitter at @FlourishingED. You can also leave comments on individual episode pages right here at www.forflourishingssake.com (see bottom of this page).
I look forward to hearing from you, and until next time, For Flourishing’s Sake, have a great week!