NPQEL - Day 1 & the tensions in executive leadership

NPQEL - Day 1 & the tensions in executive leadership

Posted March 28 2019   Neil Jones

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NPQEL #3: Day 1 & The Tensions in Executive Leadership

Day 1 is complete (apart from dinner & drinks & the social thing). We have a slightly clearer understanding of the tasks ahead. We have introduced ourselves and found each other to be a fascinating and diverse set of students. And we have recognised that Executive Leadership itself is fascinating, diverse and, to a certain extent, somewhat still uncharted.

The word that seemed to emerge from the day was "bravery". Brave to participate. Brave to consider the move to Executive Leadership (EL). Or brave to already be in the role of CEO or Executive Head. Leading beyond the entity of a single school is a role that is challenging to prepare for and ultimately seems to be a delicious collection of tensions, opposites and extremes.

Soft & Hard

To understand relationships and bring cohesion to communities of staff and parents needs a sensibility and skill in communication and listening. To read a profit and loss spreadsheet, to set a budget and make tough choices, requires resilience and perseverance. The challenge in EL is to combine these attributes into a seamless whole that instils confidence in both the Trustees' Finance and Audit Committee and the Senior Leaders concerned about their staff teams' wellbeing.

Calendar & Schedule

It is no longer an 8-6 job. It no longer has carefully defined school calendar boundaries: length of the school day, length of school holidays. EL necessitates some careful personal organisation, management of the diary and time for personal space. However, EL also enables you to be present in the life a school, to celebrate its achievements alongside the Head and school community. While the connection with school communities is more distant, an EL can still retain some of the buzz that we get as Heads from seeing children thrive.

Hearts & Minds

EL requires an incumbent to be at once a Visionary; leading a disparate collection of professionals, enthusiastic amateurs, parents and young people. Yet this can be at odds with the logic, reason and sound business sense required to steer this particular fleet through uncharted oceans, rapids and rocky shoals to the clear blue waters that will benefit all of the children and young people fortunate enough to be guided by your wise and benevolent hand.

And so bravery is the word of the day. Bravery to let go. Bravery to hold tight. Bravery to trust. Bravery to hold and be held to account. It's a delicious prospect and working with a collection of other school leaders will give each of us a much clearer insight into how we can engage with opportunities that might come our way. If we are brave.