After 2 days of residential to start the NPQEL, there followed a very special Saturday event in a small corner of Hertfordshire that summarised EVERYTHING the landscape of schools and education could be. It chimed perfectly with the aims of NPQEL thatÂ leadership, at all levels, is not simply about knowing things, it is about expressing the behaviours, vision and guidance that will have a lasting impact on the children in our care.
BrewEdHerts19 is the latest iteration of the stunningly successful BrewEd movement in the UK. Put simply, a BrewEd event is this:
…a grassroots movement for people from all phases, sectors, and areas of education. BrewEd events provide a space for educators to come together, enjoy each other’s company and have some robust, open and challenging debate around thought-provoking ideas and issues. They should also provide a platform for local educators to have their voices heard within their community.
I am fortunate to have friends with reach through the avenues and alleyways of education and, with fellow organisers Adrian Bethune and Dr Emma Kell, we brought together a fantastic range of people with significant voices. Moreover, it was the opportunity to interlace these voices with others less well known but no less powerful, that created an energy and synergy that resonated incredibly well with everyone present, in the room and online.
However, the relevance and connection with NPQEL and the reason for connecting both experiences are contained in the below Tweet from Laura: No one stood on a stage and said Yes I did this great thing and it was pretty easy, actually.
These events have highlighted for me that it’s ok to struggle, and that hiding your vulnerability does not equal strength. No one stood on a stage and said ‘Yes I did this great thing and it was pretty easy, actually.’ 2/5— Laura Knight (@asklauraknight) March 16, 2019
I wrote a blog post back in 2014when exploring the notion of "service" in leadership, of giving rather than taking as outlined by Adam Grant in Give and Take. In the post, I explored the idea that real power comes through a personal charisma which engages people, that makes them feel good being around you and which, in turn, makes them feel more powerful and empowered.
As leaders, we have an obligation to enable others to do their job well. We hold others to account and challenge them to develop and improve where it is required. But we also empathise and support, counsel them when they're down, coach wherever possible and mentor when necessary.
As an executive leader we have to have the skill to see the widest, broadest picture; to see our organisations as systems. We must be able to understand the KPIs and appraise the accompanying narratives. However, this must be coupled with the ability to identify the point from which change will occur when focus is applied.
Then when that focus (whether one or many) has been identified, it is how we behave that is crucial to the sustainability of the change that follows. Change can be simple, like agreeing on a format for reporting to Trustees, or more complex, like raising attainment for boys across a number of schools. The success of this change lies in the ability to sustain it with care and thought, maintaining positive working relationships.
Whether it is called charisma, love or compassion, the behaviour of leaders sets the tone and expectations within and around an organisation and its communities. To do this well, embracing diverse voices and opinion, we can and should express vulnerability and be open about the challenge, wary of hubris and over-blown confidence and self-importance. People see through this very quickly.
Working in and around schools is not easy but it can be, should be, rewarding. Supported and empowered teams do amazing things for the children in their care. The honesty of the speakers at BrewEd Herts clearly expressed this. And it is this that I will take from the past 3 days: Leaders can create real change if they are brave and take risks, yet all the time confident in the vision and core purpose of an organisation built upon creating better outcomes for children and young people.