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LDS/RTU SUMMER SCHOOL 2008 Leading Learning in Diverse Contexts What we know about effective school leadership and what it means for you and your schools

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LDS/RTU SUMMER SCHOOL 2008 Leading Learning in Diverse Contexts What we know about effective school leadership and what it means for you and your schools August 2008. Leadership matters. 3 things matter to children and young people’s educational growth

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Leading Learning in Diverse Contexts

What we know about effective

school leadership and what it means

for you and your schools

August 2008

Geoff Southworth


Leadership matters

3 things matter to children and young

people’s educational growth

  • parental engagement with learning
  • quality of teaching
  • leadership

Only leadership can bring the 3 together

Geoff Southworth


Context matters

  • The core tasks of school leaders are clear
  • Learning centred leadership is critical
  • Distributing leadership matters
  • School leadership is hard work and rewarding
  • Leadership in schools are changing
  • Leadership development and succession planning have never been more important

Seven broad points we now know: 

Geoff Southworth


Context matters [1]

Effective leaders know & understand their


They are ‘contextually literate’

Recognise contexts change all the time

- School cultures

- Toxins & nutrients

- Contexts change over time

Geoff Southworth


Context matters [2]

Almost all successful school leaders draw

on the same repertoire of leadership


It is in the ways leaders apply these

leadership practices – not the practices

themselves – which demonstrate

responsiveness to, rather than dictation

by the contexts in which they work

Geoff Southworth


Reflections & questions

  • Does this analysis of context make sense to you?
  • What are your contexts like?
  • How do you know and understand your contexts?

Geoff Southworth


The core tasks are clear

  • Build a vision and set direction
  • Understand and develop people
  • Redesign the organisation
  • Manage teaching and learning

Geoff Southworth


Vision & a sense of direction

A compelling vision

‘To lead’ means having a sense

of direction

Geoff Southworth


Vision & a sense of direction

If you do not know where you are

going, every road will lead nowhere. (Henry Kissinger)

Geoff Southworth


Leadership & Management

Both matter:

Management is essentially about ensuring

things work smoothly

Leadership is about going somewhere

They work in combination:

Too much management = running smoothly

on the spot

Too much leadership = running all the time

and all over the place

Geoff Southworth


Leadership & Management

You manage things; you lead people (Grace Murray Hopper)

Geoff Southworth


Compelling Vision

For children, parents and the community

And for staff

Followership rests on a compelling vision

It persuades us all to come along with the


You have to be able and prepared to articulate

the vision –to persuade; to remind colleagues

Geoff Southworth


Compelling Vision (2)

“Work is about daily meaning as well as

daily bread; for recognition as well as cash;

in short, for a sort of life rather than a

Monday through Friday sort of dying… we

have the right to ask of work that it includes

meaning, recognition, astonishment and

life” (Studs Terkel)

Geoff Southworth


Compelling Vision (3)

Leaders make meaning, provide recognition

and acknowledge all with whom they work.

The tests of a vision are :

  • Is it shared?
  • Is it adopted

JFK on a visit to NASA

Geoff Southworth


Reflections & questions

  • What is your vision for the school? (statement or key words)
  • How does that vision reflect your school’s context?
  • Where in the school might I find out what the vision is if you were not there?
  • How well do others know and understand the vision?

Geoff Southworth


[3] Learning-centred leadership

is critical

The core work

What distinguishes school leadership

from other forms of leadership

Geoff Southworth


[4] Distributing leadership matters

School leadership has a greater influence on

schools and pupils when it is widely


Some patterns of leadership distribution are

more effective than others.

Laissez faire forms of distribution not as

effective as more co-ordinated patterns

Geoff Southworth


Distributing leadership matters

One of the barriers to distributed leadership is how

leadership distribution is viewed by principals and

teachers. If it is viewed as delegation then it is likely

to be met with resistance by teachers not wanting

to undertake more work. If principals and heads

equate distributed leadership with an erosion of

their power it will be perceived as threatening and

therefore unlikely to happen.

Alma Harris, 2008

Geoff Southworth


Distributing leadership matters

Too few people will be interested in becoming leaders

and too many talented staff will burn out if we persist in

the hero model of leadership – authoritative in every

situation, knowledgeable in every field, accountable for

every action: polished, and perfect… This model is deeply

rooted in our culture and many job holders conspire

themselves to perpetuate it – gaining secret short term

satisfaction from sacrifice, troubleshooting, being in

demand, even martyrdom. (HayGroup, 2007)

Geoff Southworth


Distributing leadership matters

3 other things:

None of us is as smart as all of us.

The lone ranger is dead.

Warren Bennis

Transformational power = leaders as ‘transformers’

Upping the voltage of others

Making the school much more powerful

Team-based leadership: Is your team a high

performing team?

Geoff Southworth


Reflections & questions

  • On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you score the distribution of leadership in your school?
  • What is the sum total of leadership effectiveness and impact in your school?

Geoff Southworth


School leadership is hard work

and rewarding

  • Complex, accountable & relentless
  • No end to the work
  • It is ‘greedy’ work
  • Look after yourselves
  • Seek support
  • Track the rewards
    • pupil progress & achievements
    • staff development & growth
  • Enjoy the challenges
  • Don’t forget to look back and see how far

you have come

Geoff Southworth


School leadership is hard work

and rewarding

It’s tough, it’s a challenge, but because of

the difference we make to children’s lives –

day in and day out – it has to be the very

best job in the world.

(Headteacher 2007)

Geoff Southworth


Leadership in schools is changing

  • New forms are emerging in England & other countries
  • Many leaders working beyond their own schools
  • New leaders – school business managers
  • Team-based leadership

Geoff Southworth


Leadership development & succession planning have never been more important

  • The demographic challenge
  • ‘Churn’ and ‘backwash’ effect
  • Growing tomorrow’s leaders today
  • Identify talent and develop it

Geoff Southworth


Leadership development & succession planning have never been more important

“Talent isn’t fixed unless you believe it is…

talent depends on how a person is managed

or led.”

Pfeffer & Sutton, 2007

Geoff Southworth


Leadership development & succession planning have never

been more important

All of us in this room are here because someone

believed in us.

The only thing a person needs to be a leader is

the opportunity to lead.

Create lots of opportunities for others to lead

and make sure each and every one of these

opportunities is a learningopportunity as well.

Geoff Southworth


Leadership development & succession planning have never

been more important

The function of leadership is to produce

more leaders, not more followers

Ralph Nader

Geoff Southworth


Leadership skills and qualities are important too

A small handful of personal traits explains a high

proportion of variation in leadership effectiveness.

The most successful school leaders are open-minded

and ready to learn from others. They are flexible

rather than dogmatic in their thinking within a system

of core values, persistent (e.g. in pursuit of high

expectations of staff motivation, commitment, learning

and achievement for all), resilient and optimistic. (Leithwood et al, 2006)

Geoff Southworth


Leadership traits and qualities

These can be:

  • Learned and developed
  • Practised and evaluated
  • Looked for when appointing / promoting

Geoff Southworth


Leadership qualities

  • Leaders make a difference
    • positive and negative
  • No one wants to follow a cynic
  • Leadership never more needed

than at times of change

  • And these are times of change
  • All of you want to bring about

changes in your schools

  • Vision, passion, reservoirs of hope, belief

Geoff Southworth


Some thoughts and reflections

“Excellent companies provide two things simultaneously,

tough environments and very supportive environments.” (Tom Peters)

Staff development, like pupil development, is all about

human potential and human potential is the greatest

natural resource the world possesses.

Push, drive, be resilient, focused and determined, but

also remember to:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. (Plato)

Geoff Southworth