Leading Beyond the School Gates: Liminal Leadership

Yesterday, at our #WomenEd Festival of Leadership at Warwick University, I co-facilitated a session on Leading Beyond the School Gates with Annemarie Williams, one of our #WomenEd East Midlands Regional Leaders and someone who has become a very good friend. Annemarie gets all the credit for planning a brilliant session as it fell off of my to do list this week!

We have dubbed ourselves ‘Wilson and Williams’ as we have started co-planning and co-delivering workshops on things we are passionate about as we are on the same page about education. Annemarie is a primary CEO and I am a secondary Headteacher, we are both values-led in our approaches. We both believe in authenticity and are committed to being ethical leaders, guided by our moral compasses.

We are both passionate about is the opportunities to lead beyond school, in our communities, which develop leadership skills which can be brought back in to our schools and our classrooms. These liminal leadership opportunities are often forgotten about or not given the value and the status on our CVs, in our applications and in our interviews that they should be.

Our group’s opening reflections and discussions about what ‘Leading Beyond the School Gates’ threw up some interesting points. We talked a lot about being human in our leadership, about the hierarchies in some of our schools and the stakeholder engagement needed by school leaders.

Below are some of the things we discussed and the questions we used to frame the discussion for your consideration.

Great Leaders Make Great Schools – what is the impact of this on leaders?

  • Vision and values – moral purpose, define the mission for all
  • Exceptional leadership – learning focused, accountable, inspiring
  • Ethic of excellence  – high expectations for all
  • Pedagogy – the craft of teaching and learning
  • Culture  – teamwork and collaboration
  • Outward facing – research, collaboration, a culture of learning, innovation
  • Joy – the enjoyment and buzz of learning, should be tangible

What is your WHY of leadership?

Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’ is a book I keep going back to. We need to be articulate our why for being a teacher but also our why for stepping up to lead. The first hurdle is owning the fact that you are a leader. I anticipated that some of the people in our room did not see themselves as leaders, by the end our session they could articulate that they were leaders as they are influencing others.

Considering Servant Leadership we discussed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of this leadership style.

The concept of servant leadership is one that is both seductive and dangerous. The phrase “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. In that essay, Greenleaf said:

“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead”.

Servant leaders focus on the needs of the organisation and the communities they serve first and foremost and on developing the people within the organisation for the greater good of the whole community.

We framed our perspective as educators who have become leaders and who have used external opportunities to develop our leadership qualities, but we also shared our perspectives as recruiters, who assess candidates for what they can bring to our schools.

What other ways are there to grow as  leader?

We shared what we are passionate about, things we have done to go above and beyond outside of school and more importantly how  we can use these liminal leadership opportunities as evidence of our leadership skills.

Volunteering:

I am a School Governor, a MAT Trustee, a DFE Coach and the National Leader of #WomenEd.

Travel:

I have participated in Camp America, Raleigh International and LRTT.

Community Projects:

I am going to Mozambique with Action Aid this year.

Challenges:

Coaching has helped me overcome personal and professional challenges, which have also developed by emotional resilience.

Self-Study Courses:

I love attending, speaking at and hosting grassroots CPD. #Teachmeets, #Leadmeets and #Coachmeets have deepened by passion and my knowledge of educational leadership over the last few years.

Reading and Research:

Our school bookclub, our @WomenEdBookClub and Twitter chats like #SLTchat have helped to shape my thinking.

What is the Impact?

  • Demonstrates how you walk and talk your values
  • Opportunities to develop transferable skills such as creativity, communication and relationship building, planning and project management, problem solving etc
  • Brings new learning, content and perspective
  • Helps build future connections and relationships
  • Scientific studies show that helping others boosts happiness. It increases life satisfaction, provides a sense of meaning, increases feelings of competence, improves our mood and reduced stress.

Annemarie then made the link between community leadership, the qualities we develop and how this links to the future of  careers and employability:

The World Economic Forum recently published “The Future of Jobs” outlining the skills that will be most needed by 2020, and guess what? Social skills are leading the way. In a world where technology seems to be king and the power of social media is ever growing, it is our human connectivity and ability to build relationships, will decide who is ready for the new world.

“Overall, social skills such as persuasion, emotional intelligence and teaching others will be in higher demand across industries than narrow technical skills.”

What did we learn? How did we grow as a leaders?

  • That transferable skills can be developed anywhere, any time
  • That failure can be the stepping stone to a new pathway
  • That resilience can be developed

So we ask you to reflect and consider:

What are the experiences that have shaped you as a leader?

What are the possible new development opportunities you have yet to explore?

And more importantly, how will you harness these leadership opportunities, how will you capture them in your applications and how will you evidence they impact they have had on your leadership development?

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

On behalf of Wilson and Williams, coming to an EduEvent near you soon!

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • More people recognising that leading beyond our school gates, leading in liminal spaces and leading in our communities is a legitimate way to informally develop leadership skills.

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Making brilliant friends for life through #WomenEd – another reason to volunteer your time, energy, experience and expertise!
  • Having a diverse PLN of inspiring changemakers!

Appendix:

I recommend that you read Liminal Leadership by the fabulous Stephen Tierney. Furthermore that you watch this #TEDxNorwichEd Talk by the brilliant Marianna Cantwell who also talks passionately about existing in the grey space between the black and the white.

One thought on “Leading Beyond the School Gates: Liminal Leadership

  1. I love that you’re going into that zone of community connection. Too often, I see reciprocal distrust and misunderstanding between the neighborhood school and the rest of the town, for example. Parents are nervous to ask questions & appear dumb. Households w/o kids are ignored or they themselves feel schools are not important to them. Schools are a part, not apart, of the whole. There are needs on all sides that can only be met by real relationships of the various facets.

    Like

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