There are probably many things that makes a great leader , one who brings significant transformation. This is an observation of leaders I encountered and a couple of generalisations. In the course of our travel over the last few weeks, I met some very different educational leaders from schools in Finland, Denmark, Sweden and England that were:
- older established schools
- existing schools that are reinventing themselves
- a newish school in a renovated factory
- based on a franchise-model
- schools of unique and outstanding physical design.
But I am convinced that the success of a school is not only the result of a particular design and strong pedagogical philosophy, these must be driven by passionate and committed leaders with a vision for the future. These leaders seek to make a lasting difference in the life of the students.
As I observed the school environments and talked with principals, staff and students, two things in particular that stood out to me – Great and enduring leaders that initiate and maintain change:
1. They don’t just adopt a ‘business as usual’ attitude, they are always looking to improve and increase their effectiveness.
A ‘business as usual’ leader:
Is content with they way things are, rather than cultivating a healthy discontent
Can get bogged down in the day-to-day activity, rather than sticking their head up to see what’s possible
See challenges as reasons to maintain the status quo, rather than a new adventure to take
Keeps their people comfortable, rather than unsettling them with new ideas
Is satisfied with managing (maintaining), rather than leading (changing).
2. They commit themselves wholeheartedly to the cause and don’t see it as a stepping stone to the next big (career) thing.
We met some amazing leaders who were constantly ‘sharpening the saw’:
They were charting a course through the challenges of the global financial crisis
They knew where they were going (sometimes just as a concept)
Success in their own school opened doors for further professional opportunities and challenges. They kept the finger on the pulse of their own organization, through empowering and distributed leadership
They valued the quality of relationship across the community
The inspirational leaders, those championing innovation and change have opened the doors to learning and opportunity for young people. They reminded me of the ‘Level 5 Leader’ in Good to Great by Jim Collins, the leader who “builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.”
A great leader is committed for the long haul, to build something of lasting significance and knows the importance of constantly shaking things up from time to time.