When I first became a Head, I had ten years of experience in education. I had learned a great deal in that relatively short time on aspects such as; teaching and learning, creating a vision and plan for the departments I ran, understanding children and their needs, working with parents, but less so about people leadership. I think this is why, that now as an Education Consultant, my enthusiasm and work is primarily focussed on developing people, particularly middle and senior leaders and new Heads, in understanding themselves, others and teams.
I had some great mentors on my journey to leadership and those that were not so great – we learn from both! However, when I became the leader, I believed that it was important to have a vision, articulate it, translate it and then fulfil it without deviating along the way, despite the challenges. As you can imagine this often led to disappointments, feelings of failure and slow progress. I naively believed, at the time, that to be the leader, you needed to have all the answers and if you didn’t, at least to look as though you did! And that showing any kind of flexibility was an admittance of weakness, or an undermining of your leadership ability.
Ironically, the less flexible you are the more likely you are to tie yourself in knots!
Fortunately, with the desire of becoming a better leader, I took the opportunity to work with a leadership coach. This was revolutionary for me and I would urge everyone in a leadership capacity, to afford themselves this luxury. I knew I had strengths as a leader and I knew I had weaknesses, but I wasn’t always able to articulate them, or indeed know how to acknowledge them and work with them for improvement.
My inability to accept the need to be flexible, once a decision was made, was clearly detrimental for those that I was leading. It was through self-reflection activities and through taking a deep breath and affording a small degree of flex in some scenarios, that led me to begin to trust that having a little ‘stretch’ in the journey would still lead to successful outcomes. I could see that flexibility was an enabler for success, not a barrier to it. In fact, I would say that a leader can only be effective if they have the agility and ability to change their plans as circumstances change.
Under the current climate there is an absolute need to be a flexible leader. We are in a time of rapid change and uncertainty and it calls upon a flexible leader to plot a path across these turbulent seas and continuously re-calculate in order to navigate the unknowns.
So in the context of leadership, my answer to the question ‘Is flexibility important?’ would be a resounding ‘Yes”.
I now need to work on this approach as a mum and wife!