This is the final blog the series of three that each contain short exercises to help you reflect on your leadership journey to date, pinning down what motivates you and how to increase your impact. In this final blog, I focus on the importance of networks and relationships.
It can be easy to think of leaders in isolation, such as the myth of the ‘Superhead’ who singlehandedly turns around a school, but more often than not, it is the relationships these people develop that leads to change.
The recent Radio 4 series Seriously… Five Women Who Broke the Class Ceiling, showcased trailblazing women, such as Monica McWilliams, one of only two women who was involved in brokering the Good Friday peace agreement. She spoke of how lonely it was to be one of the first women taking a leadership position in a time of great conflict and how important it is to be surrounded by a strong network:
“We had a great team of women around us…My message to women is don’t do this on your own.”
Whilst you might not be negotiating yourself out of entrenched conflict in the way that Monica did (although it might feel like it some days!), the same lessons apply. Remember that schools are no more and no less than the teachers, support staff, parents and students who come and go each day. What gets people working together towards a common goal is relationships and networks. As Margaret Hefferman puts it in her TED talk, ‘What matters is the mortar, not just the bricks’, and how strong that mortar is depends on how much time you invest in people.
1) List all the people you have spoken to about work over the last few months, both in and out of school. They can be those who you bounce ideas around with, speak with to gain their buy-in or just let off a bit of steam with.
2) Now colour code your network in relation to these three categories, as outlined by Herminia Ibarra in her book Think Like a Leader, Act Like a Leader:
3) Now look at those lists and ask yourself the following:
When people are time poor, they tend to form ‘Just like me’ convenience networks in order to get their job done. Unfortunately, that means that you can often get stuck in a rut, with the same solutions being applied to the same problems with the same unsuccessful results. Diversity in your network helps renew thought processes and challenge ‘group think’. Ibarra outlines that not only should your networks comprise operational, personal and strategic, they should also be:
If you’ve spotted (like many of us!) that you want to grow your network, here are some practical tips on how you can go about it:
I hope you’ve found this exercise and the ones on the previous blogs a useful way in to start thinking (or get you re-energised!) about your leadership journey. It’s important to note that, just like with school improvement, there’s no one silver bullet. Taking time to reflect, just as you have by reading this blog, is one of many steps to take on your way to becoming an effective leader.View comments (0)