A First Step to Great Leadership by June O’Sullivan

14th October 2016

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June O'SullivanGreat leadership is an essential ingredient to making an organisation whether it’s a nursery or a school successful. The management company Bain completed a study in 2015 on distributed leadership in the US Charter Schools. They wanted to find the common ingredients of exceptional schools where children did well against all the odds. The clearest answer was great leadership. However, great leadership is easier said than done as leadership is complex and if it was easy we would have lots of great leaders. The power of great leadership struck me so forcible that I ended up writing three books on the subject, mostly to help me articulate what leadership looked like in action.

Leadership has many facets but the over-riding responsibility that comes with leadership is how many leaders you develop. We often fixate on the idea that leaders are great charismatic people, driving huge visions and making radical changes. In reality while this is the case for the minority, great leaders can be developed and grown with the right support, knowledge and understanding. Generally this is done through by:

– Setting out and implementing a clear vision
– Understanding and leading a very clear pedagogical approach
– Building a culture of high expectation
– Facilitating harmonious relationships
– Supporting learning and development for staff and self
– Creating action research as a core behaviour
– Taking action on poor performance
– Evaluation, feedback and support of practice
– Coaching, coaching and coaching
– Relevant and regular professional development

Added together this is quite a task and so we have to find ways to encourage people to become leaders. We need a pipeline of competent leaders who are ready and able to lead at every level of the organisation. This is no mean feat especially in the Early Years sector where as well as running excellent schools and nurseries we are often expected to be able to address bigger societal problems for example the increase in speech and language difficulties, insecure parenting or even child obesity.

So given the demand what can we do? Start small and begin with yourself. Embark on your own personal journey to leadership by becoming self-aware. Develop the emotional intelligence needed to understand how to become empathetic so you can support others and get the best from them. In my book good leadership is truly underpinned by strong emotional intelligence. In the words of Daniel Goleman,

If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.

To hear more from June, you can visit her blog here. Keep your eyes peeled for June’s next installment.

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