Growing the next generation

Over the last few years I have been fortunate enough to be involved in developing and facilitating an aspiring leaders programme for our Trust alongside other senior leaders in our MAT, most notably our Director of Education. The intention was to create a bespoke programme to cater for early career or aspiring leaders (we also fully engage with NPQML, NPQSL, and Ambition School Leaders). Our aim, through ‘Leap Into Leadership’, was to offer a programme for aspirational leaders who are in the early stages of their leadership path. The purpose being to: inspire, inform and explore leadership journeys from the very beginning. Crucially, and perhaps uniquely, it is not a programme exclusive to teaching staff welcoming applications from members of all teams, including administrative, support staff and teaching staff.

The rationale:

Aspiring and new leaders will have the opportunity to learn about different leadership approaches in different contexts; see leadership in action and have an opportunity to shadow leaders and have experience of working with the Senior Leadership Teams. During the programme, leaders will engage in: professional reading, face-to- face sessions, shadowing and mentoring. This enables our participants to begin to identify the type of leader they want to be; working alongside a mentor will help them shape their career path and the journey they may wish to take.

The programme is an exciting, yet challenging, experience for leaders who wish to take the leap and develop their skills and expertise. The Learning Academy Partnership are committed to developing leadership at all levels and this programme is designed to support the succession planning for the Trust and ensure that we have leaders able to apply for leadership opportunities within the LAP. These opportunities may be at different levels: leading a team, leadership within admin, Subject Leader, Team Leader, Assistant Head … and beyond.

Are you hungry for that next step? Do you have aspirations and would like support with a plan? Do you love learning and reflecting on your own practice? This is the perfect programme for those looking to take that leap!                          

 (Learning Academy Partnership, South West)

This year, as we embark on cohort 3 of this highly successful programme, I have decided to capture our learning journey (both my own and that of our participants) as part of my Executive Leadership blog. This is something which I feel incredibly passionate about as a Senior Leader and my leadership thinking and reflections on my own practice have been stronger as a result of the learning that I have gained from working alongside each of our candidates. It is, above all, an absolute privilege to be part of their journey and some of my proudest moments in leadership have arisen as a direct result.

As school leaders we have a fundamental duty to grow the next generation of school leaders and engender passion, joy, grit, determination, resilience, compassion and strength in those who will take up the baton in what is, I believe, the best profession there is. Our awesome responsibility is to not make this job seem impossible; rather to inspire, motivate and equip with skills and attributes that will ensure that they are better leaders than we are and ultimately make a difference for every single child.

We become leaders the day we decide to help people grow, not numbers’ Simon Sinek

‘Before you are a leader success is all about growing yourself.

When you become a leader success is all about growing others’ Jack Welch.

Cohort 3, within our MAT, consists of 13 participants from a range of roles and experiences across our academies including: teachers, support staff, family support team and administrators. The diversity of the participants is one of the most important aspects of the programme and, over the last 2 years, become one of the key strengths.

The participants are carefully chosen as part of our MAT succession planning in system leadership but also recognises that we are all leaders everyday – leaders of learning. Heads, and Senior Leaders identify participants as part of the appraisal process and candidates are invited to apply early in the Autumn Term. Formal applications and interviews subsequently take place and this enables us to get to know the candidates individually and starts to inform how we plan this bespoke programme – this is what, we believe, makes it unique as no 2 programmes are the same!

‘As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others’

Bill Gates

Our candidates complete a leadership competency framework RAG rating (red, amber, green) where they feel they are currently in their leadership development. One of the fundamental successes of the programme and integral to the growth of our new generation of leaders is the partnership of the programme’s formal delivery (6 face to face sessions facilitated by 2 Senior Leaders) and a mentor assigned to each participant who will meet and invest time in supporting the participants through their school based project using both coaching and mentoring skills.

Our SLT act as gate-keepers; ensuring that mentors have the capacity to support and develop but also that the rest of the teams are not overloaded with a myriad of different school projects (we could have had 45 different projects to date otherwise!);  fundamentally they should all fit with current Academy Development Plans and Priorities.

Key to the programme is the careful crafting of the content from the delivery, the reading materials, visiting speakers and visits to considering different opportunities to learn. A blend of discussion time, exploration, reading and reflection is essential. Our participants are given opportunities to respond to each other, us (as facilitators) and we encourage honest, constructive feedback in order to shape the programme.

A fundamental part of the programme is also how we work to ensure that our participants feel valued – never underestimate the importance of catering (refreshments and a lovely venue), quality time (away from the hustle and bustle of school life), stationery, reading materials and investing in sharing your own journey.

Our participants have, at the end of session 1, received a copy of Legacy, Jim Kerr and Black Box Thinking, Matthew Syed and Leadership Matters, Andy Buck will follow in session 3. We have, overtime, reshaped and taken on board feedback and use a blend of educational leaders as well as deliberately spending time exploring leadership outside of the education sector drawing upon Sporting examples, publishing and other sectors. TED talks provide a rich source of inspiration with Rosalind Torres and Drew Dudley already explored. For those who have not viewed Drew Dudley talk about a ‘lollypop’ moment it’s worth 10 minutes of your time and really encouraged our participants to consider leadership as those moment where one human being impacts upon another We have also looked at certain leadership styles adopted in BBC The Apprentice!

Most importantly, we spend time discussing what Leadership isn’t. When we think of leaders who inspire us they are, more often than not, people who have impacted in a small way on our lives resulting in change; as Drew Dudley shared in his Everyday Leadership those Lolly-pop moments. As our journey moves forwards I hope to share our experiences and our learning and my own reflections on building capacity and succession planning through talent spotting and nurturing the next generation.