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Getting Uncomfortable

Posted 16 November 2012

Here’s a not uncommon issue …

A headteacher, dealing with experienced, qualified professional members of his teaching staff.  His natural leadership style is to nurture and support, and to inspire his team to greater achievement, taking the professionalism and skills of his staff as a given.

However in recent weeks he has gradually realised that one of his most experienced staff members is not performing.   She is motivated, nurtured, supported … even inspired.  But her teaching is not hitting the standard he, or the school, can accept.

The fact is, that regardless of his natural style, and regardless of the teacher’s experience, there are times when managing the task, rather than just the relationship are necessary to get the right results.  It means more micro-management in the day-to-day.  Setting specific, detailed goals in short timeframes, and checking progress and compliance frequently and consistently.

All in all, for a nurturing leader, a very uncomfortable place to go.

Dealing with these challenges is the ultimate test of leadership ability.  It tests the leader’s willingness to adapt his or her style, to learn the skills … in communication, in self-discipline and self-organisation … which facilitate changes of behaviour, and bring results in a different way to how he or she is used to achieving success.

For this head teacher – as with many leaders in similar situations – the main challenge is that without a mentor or critical friend around, he would not necessarily pick up on the issue until it is too late.  He might not be able to diagnose the problem and come up with a solution, because he is too close and lacks perspective.  He would not have anyone to hold him accountable for his actions, nor would he have anyone to speak to to work his own way through his discomfort.

Fortunately for him, he has support around him.  Do you ?


Graeme Crosbie

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