Monday, 18 October 2010


We all know that we face some enormous challenges over the next few months and years...

Uncertainty is everywhere as we wrestle with structures, budgets, reorganisations and general uncertainty about the future. We need to get organised, to be more consistent, to improve our management, to sort out the paperwork and to spend more time doing the really important stuff. We need to set our priorities, stop doing things that don't make a difference, discipline ourselves to do the strategic stuff, delegate more, get others to do things and work harder. Everyone's talking about these challenges, but wherever I look there is talent; optimism; hope; and extraordinary people, places and provision.

I started the week meeting with NAHT colleagues before I opened the global curriculum project international study visit, which is being led by the Development Education Centre, and brings together a group of thirty teachers from Austria, Benin, Brazil and the Czech Republic to discuss with teachers from Leeds strategies for engaging young people in discussions about sustainability, fair trade, climate change, cultural diversity and social justice. I attended the primary headteachers seminar to talk to the primary headteachers as a group about our achievements and the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. I attended the newly qualified secondary teachers' induction and welcome event and talked to the 70 young teachers who are starting their learning journey here in Leeds as members of our secondary and special school workforce. Dirk Gilleard and I had breakfast with a group of headteacher colleagues who are chairs of their families of schools groups, and I also visited some great schools. I visited St Urban's Catholic Primary School where Jane Cavadino and her team are releasing a wonderful magic working with some great children. I visited Shire Oak Church of England Primary School to see what Jane Devane, the headteacher and her colleagues are doing on what is a simply extra-ordinary school site. I visited Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School where Gaby Nieland, the headteacher, and her colleagues are also doing great things. However, the highlight of a simply extraordinary week was my visit to present the awards to some wonderful young people at John Smeaton Community College awards evening. This was an evening I will never forget because, at the end of the evening, the choir sang 'I did it my way' and, like most things at John Smeaton Community College, it was simply brilliant!

We all want to continue to build brilliant here in Leeds and Gregg Thompson, president of Bluepoint Leadership Development, has identified seven things that will make a real difference in your school, your team, or your organisation in the coming year. Do all seven, and you will release real magic!

"Craft a big, bold, breath-taking story and tell it every day.
What is the most exciting, rewarding, and scariest future you can imagine? What great battles will be won, treasures found and people freed? Paint the story in full colour. What does the future look like? How are we going to get there? How is tomorrow going to be much better than today? People want to be part of an important story. Tell it to them and help them find their own starring role.

Multiply the strength of your leadership connections.
Consider for a moment the colleagues with whom you share management and leadership responsibilities. How much more effective would your leadership team become if you dramatically strengthened your personal connection with every one of these people? Try this: honour their uniqueness; share more of yourself; learn about them; ask how you can serve them. Be careful, this is very potent.

Act with exceptional compassion and kindness.
Seek out ways to show your humanity every day. Treat everyone in the organisation with dignity and respect, especially those who are struggling. They will walk through walls for you, but do not do it for that reason. Do it because it is the right thing to do. We spend much of our waking lives inside organisations and you have the power to make these places where the human spirit can thrive or die. Use this power well.

Tell the absolute truth.
Everyone wants to improve the communication throughout their organisation but what about simply setting a new standard for honesty…starting with you. How much more effective would your organisation be if the half-truths, positioning, sacred elephants and face-saving were eradicated? The tough part is that you cannot make this happen by mandating it. You must go first. You must model it.

Hold everyone accountable.
The caring leader insists that people do what they say they will do. When you hold people accountable, you are saying that their work is important. You are saying that they are important. Every time you let a deadline slip or a deliverable go incomplete, you are discounting the person whose job it is to deliver on these commitments. Make it a habit to ensure that every piece of work is accompanied by a personal commitment. Measure. Give feedback. Initiate consequences.

Celebrate being part of an organisation that keeps its promises.
Confront underperformance and make a list. Commit to seeing that this performance changes. Before you take any action, ask yourself these questions – “What is my part in this situation? How have my actions or lack thereof contributed to this situation? What do I need to do differently?” Approach the individuals in question and describe your responsibilities and personal commitments to change. Then, and only then, it’s their turn. You may need to do nothing else.

Be distinctively you.
What would you get if you could put all of the leadership qualities of Bill Gates, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, George Washington, Jack Welch and Winston Churchill into one individual? These men and women made a difference because they had the courage to be themselves. What excites you these days? What are your passions? Your obsessions? Where do you want to make your mark? When you are at your best, what are you doing? Maybe it’s time to figure out what is most important to you, tell everyone around you, and let this fuel your leadership."

We all know the keys to brilliant: people, leadership, teamwork, attitude, trust, determination, commitment, partnership, ownership and engagement. Together, we have created something quite extra-ordinary over the last ten years. An organisation which has helped transform learning and our learning places. I have been blessed to be able to work here in Leeds and to be able to play a small part in some incredible success stories here in this wonderful city. Colleagues' passion, commitment and belief; and our determination and hard work as a teaching and learning team has transformed provision and outcomes for young people and the communities we all serve so well.
Keep the faith!

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