If you are a school leader you’re likely to have read this book. Perhaps you’ve shared it with other leaders? As a platform to discuss ways to get better in how to lead improvement?
It’s been widely praised for its world class research background and clear presentation of the leadership practices and capabilities most likely to improve student outcomes.
I’m keen to hear from leaders who are using this book as a resource and catalyst for leadership development in their school or system. This might be at a system or school-wide level, in a team or just with your good self!
To get the discussion and sharing going, here are three ways I use the book and which you might find helpful:
1. At a system-level all leaders have a copy of the book. Together, over a year or longer, we delve deeply into each of the five leadership dimensions and three capabilities. First, to understand and secondly to apply to a real job-based problem of leadership practice. Everyone prior reads about the selected practice or capability, brings a real problem to the session, shares it in small group discussion, and is given ‘smart tools’ to help them make progress with their problem. For example, a sound process for tackling tough problems.
2. At a leadership team level, the team decides which practice or capability they want to work on in depth together. For example, they might want to establish better goals, get increased commitment from others, have stronger links to priority goals at all levels of leadership in the school, have all teachers and leaders develop aligned performance and learning goals. This is all worthwhile but hard to implement across a school! So, we plan how to roll this out step-by-step, what the team will do, how we’ll track progress an evaluate success.
3. At an individual leader level, for example with a principal, their interest and need may be to further strengthen relational trust. Because trust is a strong predictor of student success you can’t have enough of it in leadership! Following reading, we start by doing an audit to understand and evaluate the school’s current capability in relational trust, which helps to identify what’s going well and not so well. As well as developing a plan to improve those aspects of trust where there’s room for improvement, I’ll coach the principal in how to build trust in their daily interactions with others.
The big message here is that it’s insufficient to have a general idea about how these leadership practices and capabilities work. Leaders’ need specific knowledge of and skill in these for leading improvement. It’s very hard for one leader, such as the principal, to be expert in all of the practices and capabilities. Expertise is most effective when it’s spread and shared across leadership in a school or system. This means that all leaders need this specific knowledge and skill to make improvement happen and with a big impact!