I wanted to reflect on @ieshasmall Introverted Leader talk at the Telegraph Festival of Education, after being left speechless by @jazampawfarr story (see YouTube videos below). I have combined these with my own views on what we do as leaders and what it means to be Relentlessly Optimistic for our young people.
This is a re-blog post originally posted by Nick Heard and published with kind permission.
The original post can be found here.
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@jazampawfarr asks us to consider which type of teacher we are going to be and I suggest that this can be asked as which type of leader we are going to be? Do you remember ‘why’ you went into teaching and then leadership? Do you care and advocate beyond the job because it is more important than performance tables and accountability measures? We manage the hope and aspirations of some of the most vulnerable members of our society and cannot afford to hinder the life chances of any students and these students in particular.
Now, from the What it means to be Relentlessly Optimistic video, you get a sense of my own feelings on this and the breaking down and running through walls analogy, whilst motivating and inspiring for some, isn’t necessarily how we all manifest our own leadership. Or can it be but in different forms?
The values may well be the same but how we make that happen can be hugely different and equally important.
@ieshasmall spoke about the benefits that the introverted leader can bring to school leadership, especially when complimented with extroverts. @ieshasmall noted five typically introverted traits and can be used as strengths. The link to @ieshasmall’s blog is below but I wanted to dwell on two of the traits identified, as I feel these connect the most with ‘why’ we do it.
‘Observation and the ability to notice what others may miss’ are essential if we are not to miss the current day @jazampawfarr’s of this world. This is something that could be missed if leadership is dominated by gregarious and extroverted leaders. We need leaders to notice all things but especially the small things!
‘Quiet passion’ – that burns and niggles is another of the traits identified in introverted leaders. Again, essential if we are not to miss any young people and ties in with my contention that actually, that fire and passion is the same as our extroverted wall-breakers but expressed and channelled through a different lens.
Ideally, leadership will be a blend of extroverts and introverts. The danger is the quiet voice of the introvert can be drowned out by the extroverts. There is a saying about being wary of the quiet person in the fight, as they sit back and watch trouble unfold and know that when trouble comes, they can take care of it. The same can be applied to leadership contexts, so extroverts need to know themselves and enable our introverts to shine through and have a voice. Extroverts need introverts spotting and noticing the small things, otherwise they will be missed.
@ieshasmall commented that ‘the most important thing for leaders of all types is to be really clear about our purpose and aims’; I feel it goes even deeper than that and that we have to connect with ‘why’ we are leading in schools. We have to lead to make a difference on everyone within the organisation. As @jazampawfarr puts it, we need to be ‘agents of transformation’ . We can do this as extroverts running through walls or as introverts, with a steely, considered determination to do whatever is needed for our young people!
As long as our values and ‘why’ are the same, the walls will come tumbling down!