Aspiring Leaders

Aspiring Leaders – The Next Generation

Leadership is not a rank. Leadership is a choice.

(Simon Sinek Leaders Eat Last – 2013).

We have recently had the privilege of hosting an Aspiring Leaders’ Conference on behalf of University of Worcester with the primary aim of reflecting on how to develop leadership characteristics and qualities in the first years of teaching. With a room packed full of PGCE/School Direct trainees who had applied to attend the training, expectations were high that  this would be an exciting day. Second to that, was the opportunity to meet a wide range of leaders within our school context; to hear stories and experiences of how different staff members progressed into ‘Leadership’.

As part of this day, our ‘aspiring leaders’ explored well-researched and evidence based leadership behaviours, habits and competencies that contribute to superior performance in all areas of the profession. For me, as a new Assistant Headteacher, the experience had the added benefit of giving a personal opportunity to reflect on key characteristics that any ‘aspiring leader’ should aim to instil in their professional life. By the end of the session, leaders from across the school had shared their words and wisdom and as a group, had highlighted the importance of the following traits (a non-exhaustive list!)

Don’t forget the ‘why’!

As Simon Sinek argues:

Every single person, every single organisation on the planet knows what they do, 100 percent. Some know how they do it … But very, very few people or organisations know why they do what they do. And by “why” I don’t mean “to make a profit.” … By “why” I mean: What’s your purpose?What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organisation exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?

Teachers care. It is part of the key attributes that make a teacher in that we all have a common purpose and understanding of ‘why’ we get up in the morning; the children we teach, help and support. At the heart of effective leadership has to be a sole focus on improving the educational experiences and outcomes for the children we teach. It’s all about impact. Everything we do, for the effective leader, has impact at the heart of it.

What is your why and how do you share that with your colleagues?

‘Set out your stall’

Above all else, our next leaders will be those establishing themselves in their classrooms now. Effective leadership begins, and continues, in the classroom. Visible leadership, that which pupils and parents and staff comment on, is long-lasting and develops a professional reputation no matter what stage of your career.

For any aspiring leader, opportunities need to be embraced, expected behaviour needs to be modelled constantly, and the ‘setting out of your stall’ and what you stand for starts from day one.

When your pupils go home after school – how will they describe the learning in your classroom?

Get things done!

Teachers, even the best leaders, will face times when an overwhelming sense of ‘stuff’ that needs to happen just won’t get done. There is never a ‘quiet time’ of the year anymore. Exam groups may go but teaching staff are constantly moving on to the next cohort, looking for ways to develop intervention and/or support work. Procrastination is the enemy of the effective leader.

Sometimes difficult decisions need to be made. Avoiding them, ignoring them or trying to divert them may buy time but will lead to greater problems.

The effective leader gets things done. They use their team, rather than dictating or trying to do other people’s jobs. They inspire and motivate and build teams that achieve, whether in the classroom, department or school wide.

How can you plan ahead and learn to prioritise?

Never stop learning

As teachers, we constantly emphasise the importance of learning. We expect pupils to reflect, review and amend in order to improve and progress. We need to expect the same from ourselves. Leadership requires experience. Not in terms of years of dedicated ‘service’ but in terms of facing a variety of situations. Effective leaders will take all of these situations and review what worked, what needs improvement and what could be done differently next time. Above all else, our new teachers need to embrace failure on their path to leadership.

When will you build in time to reflect?

Leading takes time

There is no one path, no one route, no fixed journey into ‘leadership’. Gone are the days when teachers specialise in one area. We all take responsibility for data, teaching and learning, pastoral support, vulnerable groups. The best leaders will experience different aspects of school life and develop their skills based on this.

How will you develop your skill set and address any areas of weakness?

You are never going to be ‘ready for it’!

In the midst of a rapidly changing educational and policy landscape, and with more demands on schools than ever, surely now is not the time to be promoting leadership to colleagues so early on in their career?

Nothing could be further from the truth. It is because of these demands and changing landscape that exceptional, driven and determined leaders are required by schools more than ever.

As a member of a Senior Leadership team, succession planning is essential for ensuring the continual development of department areas, management models and leadership capacity. Succession planning is increasingly being used to support bespoke CPD models, that support and challenge aspirational and able staff.

It is comforting that, despite controversy over teacher recruitment, education policy and political upheavals of this year, our new cohort of teachers are not perturbed and are ready to embrace a leadership journey with a passion for learning and excellence at the heart of all they do. Our children and our schools are in safe hands!


Amy Page
Assistant Head, Studley High School
ITT Lead