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Mentor a New Head, and Become a Better Leader

November 16, 2017, 12:03 GMT+1
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  • Mentoring a recently appointed fellow head can improve your own performance in several powerful ways, writes Viv Grant...
Mentor a New Head, and Become a Better Leader

When you’re a headteacher, mentoring a colleague who has just taken on the role can be one of the greatest gifts you give to both yourself and your mentee, but it isn’t something to be taken lightly.

It comes with a certain amount of responsibility and pressure on one’s time. If these can’t be resolved at the outset, it’s better to say no and decline the invitation, rather than enter into a relationship in which expectations on one side or the other can’t be met.

But if you’re happy to take on the responsibility on, there are three particular benefits that I believe are foundational for a headteacher’s own professional growth and development:

1. Increased wisdom

Wisdom comes as we get older and develop the capacity to reflect and learn from our life experiences. As a headteacher, with what’s likely to be years under your belt, there’s a depth to your level of experience that your mentee will benefit from hearing, but which you can also benefit from exploring.

Recounting the lessons you’ve learnt can serve to remind yourself of the journey you’ve been on; the highs and the lows, and the person you’ve become along the way.

2. Deeper levels of empathy

You’ll have the chance to sharpen your ability to listen beyond words. You’ll become more conscious of your mentee’s silences, intonation and feelings, and through those, be able to draw on greater levels of empathy.

You’ll build a better understanding of how it feels to be them – to be outside of one’s comfort zone while having to learn and acquire a whole new set of skills. In return, the mentee will start to see your relationship as one where it’s safe to make mistakes and take risks.

3. Greater selfunderstanding

The self-awareness experienced while mentoring others can lead mentors to ask certain questions of themselves: Why am I giving this piece of advice? What is this relationship teaching me about myself?

These sorts of questions, if asked during the periods of reflection following a mentoring session, can broaden the mentor’s personal horizons and understanding of how the headship role has shaped their own personality and behaviour.

In a climate of reduced budgets and limited resources, mentoring doesn’t require much in the way of financial outlay, but can reap dividends for all concerned. Together, mentor and mentee can learn a great deal about their impact on the children they teach and those they lead, while helping to create a learning environment in which all can flourish.