Being a good leader will enable students, staff and parents to work together so that the best outcomes can be achieved.
That is easy to write, not so easy to achieve. The only true way of achieving this is through making relationships with all stakeholders.
There have been times when I have berated myself for not taking the time to walk away from my screen and office to actually go and speak to my colleagues or the pupils. Being a SENDco is a tough role as there are always deadlines, meetings, EHCP applications, annual reviews… the list is endless. But relationships are fundamental to any organisation and important for good mental health.
I believe that being a good leader is about showing compassion, it’s about knowing your staff, taking the time to find out their strengths and talents and using those to ensure they bring the best to your organisation. It is about showing equality across the organisation so that everyone knows they are valued. It is about listening to them but offering challenges when needed, giving them space to grow in confidence and being abundantly clear about expectations.
I am sure that many leaders across the land will be questioning their role, their ability to lead and their passion to continue with such a role. It has been the hardest year emotionally, mentally and physically. Being a leader in education during the Covid-19 crisis has been a challenge partly because of the constant changes from the Government, the pressures on school and the lack of clarity, guidance and support. Yet these core values are what true leaders will live and breathe despite it not being modelled from the DFE and those Ministers in charge.
As members of our Government have experienced, being a leader is not always popular. The rest of the organisation does not always know, recognise or appreciate the pressures leaders are under. I am sure that if you are interested in developing leadership you will have read/seen Simon Sinek. He discusses some of the greatest leaders and why they were so admirable and left such a legacy. He noted from his research that they all “act and communicate in the same way within the ‘Golden Circle’ asking the ‘What’, ‘How’ and ‘Why’”. Thus it reminds us to go back and re-evaluate our purpose and how we should be working from the inside out. We need to get the ‘why’ right. So when you are doubting your ability to continue to lead during this demanding time, your focus is pulled away from the objective, your soul is weary and you are exhausted in all ways; the simple reminder is that we all lead because we desire the best outcomes for pupils. The most effective way to ensure this is to work collaboratively as a team. That means that everyone has a different role and if given the right tools, the collective vision will be achieved.
Communication is vital, leadership teams get criticised for not having good communication channels in place. There are plenty of ways to ensure this does happen and having an ‘open door’ policy will also help. If we make ourselves available, show that we genuinely care, listen to viewpoints, understand frustrations and take the time to celebrate successes; we will all have an impact and be seen as credible leaders. If leadership teams successfully build relationships, show compassion and communicate well, achieving the best outcomes for pupils will be the ultimate focus and drive. However, to be a leader, we must always put our own oxygen masks on first, before we can put them on others.
This year has been tough in every way and it is easy to lose sight of the mission and reason for our role. If you are doubting your ability or desire to continue in this role, you need to remember that you have led your teams through this historical crisis. Being a leader is not easy, it requires you to give your all at times so ensure you are kind to yourselves over the coming months and keep your focus on the positives and the things that have been achieved, the lives you have continued to reach, teach and the families who will have appreciated your time and efforts.
Beth Cubberley, deputy headteacher, Grove Wood Primary School, Rayleigh, Essex