A new school year begins shortly in the northern hemisphere, and – as with every new beginning – it is an opportunity for school leaders to reflect on how they are going to take their organisations forward, learning from the past and venturing boldly into the future. The disruptions and upheavals of the pandemic are far from gone (and the ripples in some parts of the world continue to be felt particularly vigorously), but the start of a new term and year is an opportunity to affect the direction of the school and its community, and to forge ahead with courage and clarity of vision. When school leaders stand up in front of their staff, their students and their wider community, they have a powerful platform from which to communicate, shape, guide and invest in the growth and development of the school; it is an opportunity to be grasped with both hands.
What about the leaders themselves, though? Who supports, shapes, guides and invests in them? Leaders can and should of course benefit from an infrastructure of support around them, from a Board to a supportive Deputy, and from colleagues in other schools to a mentor or coach. Ultimately, though, it is – and always has been – down to leaders to develop themselves. As leaders, we can – and do! – learn every day when we reflect on what went well and what went less well, and we adjust our future behaviour accordingly; most leaders will also turn to sources of inspiration, too, from books to conferences, to keep their understanding of the sector and the wider world topped up. But what about ourselves? How deep do we delve into who we are, and what we stand for?
Interrogation of self (and acting on the ideas and directions which emerge) is a powerful form of investment in self … and like any kind of investment, it is easier to do with the support of others, drawing on their insights, perspectives, and expertise. This has been a common thread in the discussions I have been having over the past few months with LSC Education colleagues as they shape and refine their Leadership courses due to start in September or October, and it really feels as though the autumn will bring a wealth of opportunity for school leaders really to flourish in their leadership by exploring who they are, and who they have become, as leaders, especially over the crisis-riven past couple of years.
If school leaders do not demonstrate investment in self, how can they expect their communities to believe that they should be investing in turn in themselves? 2021-22 awaits … make it the year of investment in you, the leader.