Power and Love at the Festival of Education

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After visiting my first Sunday Times Festival of Education I was overwhelmed by the number of things I really wanted to capture and reflect on in my blog.
I was completely blown away by the passion and sheer oomph of Hywel Roberts, inspired by the beautiful setting, had a great time meeting new and more established Twitter friends and thoroughly enjoyed David Aaranovitch’s Gove interview. I was disheartened by the recurring theme that there is a view that outstanding teaching and learning for the sake of students apparently doesn’t look the same as outstanding teaching for the sake of Ofsted or ISI, not so much the case in my classroom – if Ofsted turn up they’ll see what I always do and I’ll look forward to the feedback, I certainly won’t be pulling out a special ‘observation lesson’. Anyway above and beyond all of the stuff that has been floating around in my brain since yesterday, the one session that really stuck with me was Leadership for the Future with Prof Chris Husbands and Steve Munby CEO of the CfBT trust.

I have to admit that it didn’t start too well, but as soon as Steve got up to speak I was inspired.
Now this guy recognises that leadership needs are diverse across the educational sectors, as in business but his message was clear: regardless of where your leadership role is, the two things that are central to outstanding leadership are power and love.

He talked about the fact that it is the combination of power and love that makes the difference, power alone creates drive, high expectations, a no compromise approach and goes hand in hand with the relentless determination necessary to raise aspiration and achievement. But all of these are pointless if you can’t take anyone with you on your journey to greatness. To ensure you are not alone in your pursuit of excellence you need to connect, bring together and unify staff and ideas all through love and appreciation of what they bring to the organisation and what you are all hoping to achieve. Another speaker in another session mentioned keeping the child at the heart of teaching and learning…here we see the love aspect come into play. We need to be passionate but in an inclusive and engaging way. Te message was that leaders should not only challenge, but welcome challenge back, ask for ideas, seek out opportunities, invite people in to critically asses all areas of practice, invite challenge, and ultimately create a culture of mutual accountability, a sense that ‘we’re all in this together’.
Steve went on to repeat again that leadership cannot be a case of power versus love, truly successful leadership has to blend both and know when each needs to be employed.

I also found his comments on collaboration interesting, a question from the audience from a current leader about ‘how best to impose collaboration’ had me squirming in my seat and I had to will myself not to fly across the room at him in a furious rage that the words ‘collaboration’ and ‘impose’ had been used in the same sentence. Steve talked about how competition gives leadership an edge, it helps improve standards and raise aspiration, but collaboration is key to sustained improvement. Part of such collaboration also needs to be a commitment to other institutions, when other organisations are in trouble we should reach out and help, sharing best practice and nurturing a sense of connection and support.

When asked how to employ the power and love approach, he immediately replied that modelling is key. To develop future leaders, make power and love clear and they too shall lead successfully.

I know I shall certainly keep these ideas at the front of my mind in my #futureprincipal journey, all too often it is easy to be driven and ambitious, but without a sense of compassion and love it is just not enough. Thank you Steve Munby for your inspirational words and for setting this future leader on what I hope is the right path.

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