Personal framework for leadership development
Personal Framework for Leadership Development.
My leadership journey is about self-realisation, via an evolving pathway of opportunity and application. Whilst my development has obvious milestones, these stepping points do not lead towards a premeditated leadership goal. My approach has not been as intuitive as Magnus Walker Go with your gut feeling nor has it been as linear as Charlie Bell, who spent decades climbing the McDonald's corporate ladder. I have not instigated or created an innovative company that has changed the world. Nor have I transformed one that was struggling to survive and now leads the way. I do not have the knowledge expertise to change a domain of thinking. However, my approach and willingness to explore new thoughts of action has lead me to a keen interest in leadership within educational settings. I am particularly interested in leadership paradigms that can enable creativity, change, innovation and entrepreneurship within schools. My essential drivers, to bring about change, are purpose and urgency.
This self-reflective narrative concerns my character of seizing fleeting chances and a determined endeavour to succeed. Chances have lead me into threads of opportunity connected by experiential application. Specialist knowledge has been my pathway to leadership and this knowledge has led me to situations of positive change, challenge and confrontation. As a leader I try to question my actions.
- Am I satisfying innate personal needs?
- Am I contributing to a whole of organisation consensus?
- Are my actions just an irresistible urge to change the status quo?
I am curious by nature. I have obsessive traits and I have an inherent dissatisfaction for authoritative order. However, throughout my professional life I have applied various leadership skills contextual to the situation and contextual to my moral purpose. I do not consider myself a natural born leader, nor an efficient manager but I am willing to develop both leadership and management skills to be able to take on complex problems, which on the whole, involve improving schools at a transformational level.
Leadership opportunities have led me to a variety of situations, which have tested my personal boundaries and capabilities. In present times, I view these past opportunities within the scope of developing my potential to reinvent and transform. I can now recognise certain stages of development where people actively enabled me the opportunity to have a go and to take a chance. My leadership journey is as much about those leaders and peers who granted me such opportunities as it is about myself seizing moments of leadership through hard work, cognitive struggles and taking strategic risks. I am now in the situation to sponsor others to advance their potential. Leadership through enabling the development of others as leaders can be a high-risk activity as well as a rewarding experience. Leadership is as much about enabling workplace leaders as it is about directly impacting improvement. Leadership is much to do about the self-liberties to risk take.
This is a personalised reflection on my capacity to recognise leadership, the sense of a moral purpose, power with strategic purpose, realising and applying leadership tools, and the want to actually enact leadership. I have developed a personalised leadership style, which is not static and is contextualised to the task at hand, addresses positional mandates, and a personal to improve the situation. I seek inspiration; I interconnect purpose and strategy; I reflect; I participation; I form tactics and I empower.
Hero leadership, reflective practices and symbols of moral purpose
In my formative years I understood leadership in a naive and subconscious manner. It was about goodness and organising others. I never respected the boss as a leader as I could not make an emotional connection. My personal understanding of leadership was based on the grand achiever who actively demonstrated something beyond what normal folk could not have had hoped to demonstrate. It was about separation. Individuals needed wealth, an elite skill, and or a god’s gift to remain emerged as a leader. In short I had drawn a line between the unachieving mass and the achieving few. In my mind only a minority could be recognised as achievers. Other notables could briefly emerged from mediocrity but could not sustain their efforts and eventually fell back into the fold. My working class catholic heritage cut down poppies as quickly as they could emerge. It has taken many years to recognise all can lead at various times in various contexts.
So who were they? They were not bosses, nor were they police, doctors, priests, civil servants or teachers. My leaders were hall of fame sport stars, famous artists like Pablo Picasso and Sidney Nolan, political leaders like Paul Keating and Bob Hawke, corporation CEOs like Jobs and Ellison, and societal changers like Ghandi and Martin Luther King. They were the remarkables. However, in my mind I was Monkey imprisoned by a head bracelet blessed by Tripitaka. My abilities whilst irresistible were confined by a higher authority. I could not be a real life leader. My vision of leadership denied me access to it. However, I knew I could be supreme as an agitating prick.
Growing up with television has a lot to answer for. Just like meccano influencing architecture, television characters influenced my meanings. I was not aware of this subconscious perspective of leadership but it did influence my entry into leadership. Put simply, I viewed leadership to what can be described as hero leader syndrome (Myatt 2012). And, without denigrating real people’s significant achievements I blended what I could do from the real person with the fictional character. It was an inturned parody of my subconscious concepts resurfacing when in the throes of emerging as a leader. What differentiated my understanding of such real life extraordinary leaders who displayed superhuman actions, and fictional leaders such as Monkey Magic was not really that much. However, in the parody of it all, I associated closer with the fictional entity. Superheroes like spiderman, superman and batman could draw upon their inner strengths, undeniable endurance, spectacular performance and as well as get through moments of helplessness. These demonstrated moments of despair are more engaging than real life hero leaders. Moments of despair are the tool, which cuts down the poppies.
Whilst Monkey could summon a cloud I could summon a thought. When Steve Jobs created the iPhone I could only appreciate his cleverness and buy the product. Bernard Bass describes how people easily associate with fictional characters; as such entities are steeped in inspiration, idealism and influence. Real life hero leader doers take achievement out of the realms of the normal person. As a more experienced leader I can now appreciate the role of symbols. Symbolic meanings made by fictional entities remain far easier to unconsciously digest, however I can now consciously associate achievement of extraordinary people as transferable symbols and influential meanings. This is largely to do with experiencing leadership and having experiences to self contextualise. These experiences helped me to humanise leadership. Cartoon superheros influenced my desire to solve complex problems and generate a dogged determination to get it done. Through such behaviours I developed a personal belief that I can make some difference, inspire improvement and attain a sense of righteousness. This belief ultimately led me to recognise the need of multi level organisation leadership.
I believe that skilled symbolic leaders are able to transfer meaning far more readily than people who are remarkable doers. A symbolic leader through abstract qualities can transfer meaning. In other words leadership is more about the transference of making meaning rather than action itself (Vickery). The transference of making meaning through symbolic communications is as important as the display of extraordinary activity. However, I am yet to realise the skills as a symbolic leader. Leadership is a long journey.
Unfortunately, on emerging as a leader, my real life hero leaders and superheros influenced certain demonstrated behaviours such as extended work hours; limited my ability to distribute autonomy; and not being able to let certain things go. Like a dog with a bone I focused on my efforts to demonstrate achievement as inspiration rather than communicating and listening to those in close proximity. Through hard work and the ability to get it done I intuitively sought to be an inspirational leader. However, this super effort didn’t transferred to actual leadership. I realised I needed to gain other leadership skills. I became aware that my communication and listening skills were overridden by concentrated efforts to solve the problem. My persuasive skills were immature and I actually struggled to sponsor collaborative environments. I quickly recognised that the populous notion that - to get ahead you must find your inner superhero (Bowen 2014) - is limiting. Did I mention emotional intelligence as a leadership skill? My advice is to deconstruct the constructed you.
On a critical level, most of my hero leaders were male. It is obvious that these heros play a part in conditioning social constructs similar to the stereo casting of gender leadership characteristics portrayed in this Pantene Philippines advertisement. Whilst the video is about selling shampoo it illustrates the perceptual variations of boss (male) vs bossy (female), dedicated (male) vs selfish (female), and neat (male) vs vain (female). Such social constructs are detrimental to leadership. Film critic MaryAnn Johanson talks about the lack of female superheroes which play the lead role in movies and that the movie industry is about satisfying the perceptions of the adolescent male (BBC 2013). It is possible that this adolescent perception could be contributing to the populous notion that leadership requires alpha masculine characteristics. Inherent perceptions of the authoritative leader and influential leader as a masculine domain (Carli, 2001; Rudman & Kilianski, 2000) weakens organisational improvement, inclusivity and innovation. Steven Sinofsky a former Microsoft executive pointedly states that leaders should ‘measure performance on achieving goals, not on heroic work’ (Sinofsky 2014). He states that leadership is about signing up to work that can be achieved. This requires leaders to design achievable goals. I now contextualise leadership with winning over hearts and minds, enabling others to participate, setting inspirational goals and vision in a context that is realistically achievable. The inspirational bar must be in reach of all who participate in the organisation.
As a leader I have found it important to continually reflect on and critically analyse my personal subconscious and tacit conceptual understandings of leadership. It is important that I do not demonstrate behaviours or actions derived by persuasive conditioning. It can be very easy to fall into castings leadership and acting hero. It is important that I do not sponsor expectations of hero leadership. From my experiences hero leadership can lead to staff dependency, discrimination based on sex and culture, lower returns of innovative productivity, enlist resistance to change and can eventuate as a real threat to personal health and a sense of well-being.
My leadership skills have advanced through incorporation of reflective practices within experiential contexts. Leadership opens the door to constellations of self-based unknowns. Having the capacity to apply critical reflective practices I have been able to develop situational awareness levels which inturn help me to ‘... cope in situations of uncertain information’ (Moon 2003, p. 7). As a positional leader I need to be able to cope with high work loads, multiple interconnecting complex problems, ranges of emotional transactions and situations I cannot command or control. I view Schon’s (1983) ‘reflection-in-action and ‘reflection-on-action’ practices as valuable self-nurturing leadership improvement skills. Without reflection, artefacts of action remain lost in the world of stimuli and response. Through reflection I have been able to analyse my leadership activities and study artefacts of action to improve future engagements. Developing reflective skills has enabled me to action based learn. I can now focus on my moral purpose and have the stamina to employ strategic powers.
Participatory & Collateral Leadership, Passive Consumption & Co-creation School & My Moral Purpose
The root driver of my leadership is my moral purpose. This being: the conditioning of passive consumption. Commercialisation of content is a significant cost to Australian schooling. In 2012 Australia’s National Copyright Unit calculated that schools pay $56 million a year to statutory copyright collecting agencies (Arlington 2012). Australian schools spend approximately $665 million dollars on educational materials per year. New South Wales Teacher Federation calculated that teachers spend on average of $985 per year on classroom supplies, educational materials and classroom furniture (Jeffares 2014). Australian Universities libraries spend approximately $256.7 million per year on resources (Australian Law Reform Commission 2011). In 1996 Bill Gates stated the term ‘Content is King’ and envisioned the money companies could make peddling content through the internet. Youth are viewed as consumers. Youth are targeted as consumers in and out of school. High tech gadgets, network providers, telcos, software and application peddlers, examination preparation materials, and corporate entities such as Microsoft, Google and Apple who target students as initiated consumers.
Schools as cash cows and students as passive customers. Commodity exploitation is one of the significant big picture issues teacher leaders must address. Students are compelled to attend school and under this compulsion are syphoned content created by commercial companies. Neoliberalism is a restructuring force, which is becoming more apparent across global education systems. It sponsors niche market-driven innovations through astute budget and human resource efficiencies, and through business driven quality-of-product models. This is basically for profit business models driving school operations.
It is important students learn to learn and develop critical learning behaviours. Teacher’s need to show leadership to reestablish students as powerful learners within this increasingly commodity driven environment. Contemporary classrooms need to progress from a consumption based design to a design that enables co-creation and critical learning. The core issue is containment. It is based on efficiency driven management practices. In short, consumer based learning thrives within hierarchical transaction. It is a push-down model. This model denies teachers to develop as leaders with an educational purpose, a holistic vision and strategic purpose. From my observation, this hierarchy and efficiency realm has morphed easily from teachers positioning themselves as the essential content holders (the chalk and talk teacher / repositories of knowledge) to the distributor of content (middle person). In a business sense teachers are migrating from the provisioning as manufacturer to that as distributor.
As a teenager my consumption of content was based on demonstrating my understandings of what the teacher said, wrote on the blackboard and referred to in textbooks. I remember many lessons of trying to keep up by writing down what the teacher wrote on the blackboard. As a graduate teacher I found I required the authoritative skills of turning my back to the class, writing content on the blackboard and discovering who threw the paper airplane. This was an authoritative behaviour management skill I had to learn fast. I had to establish my authority to deliver content. Whilst I do not wish to return to the chalk and talk production line I am concerned that contemporary commercialisation of learning content is intensifying passive digestion. To my point and on the whole, teaching practices have not improved sufficiently and students remain passive consumers of increasingly commercialised content. Ironically research indicates that in certain subject domains Australian students are achieving lower standards (Jensen 2014). This is despite youth consuming more content. There is no shortage of content.
Henry Jenkins believes students need to engage content as critical thinkers to make ‘judgment’, ‘network’ and ‘negotiate’ (Jenkins 2009, p xiv). Jenkins describes the need for students to regain story telling as the story tellers to become participatory social contributors. He refers to students who are denied learning through participatory opportunities as disadvantaged. These students will remain inept and not recognise possibilities to grasp future leadership roles within the highly competitive consumerised world (Jenkins 2009). The collateral positioning is that these disadvantaged students will most likely remain subservient and not develop the skills to be leaders within this knowledge era. It is important that principals, senior teachers and teachers recognise this exploitative situation, adopt a leadership position and enact a moral imperative to engage productive change (Fullan 1993). This being: teachers must engage quality-teaching practices to enable student to gain participatory learning skills, to gain transformative learning capacities, to engage leadership opportunities.
I am convinced by Ken Robinson’s, Clint Smith’s, Eric Liu and Adam Lent’s surmise of schools as systems which actively dismantle student’s essential creative and innovative capacities to voice dissent and access critical power. Lent’s description of a limited elite class gaining the opportunity to imagine different worlds and to make different worlds happen rings close to my perspective of schools actively manufacture a majority of consumers who are subservient to the created products of a few. Leadership in school should not be about suppression and restricted opportunity. It is important that teachers as leaders change behaviours and empower student’s critical abilities by reconceptualising content, empower learning and distribute classroom power structures.
Students accessing leadership opportunities in school is important. From my experience as a student, the heritage of student leadership is generally limited to the student representative council, sport captaincy and school prefect. I was fortunate as I gained opportunities of leadership in primary and secondary school, and this assisted me to enter leadership positions later in life. The hours my father spent on developing my sporting skills as a child enabled me the opportunity to become a primary school sports captain. This position of status was my collateral stepping-stone to become a secondary school prefect across multiple year levels. As a school captain and prefect I attained an elite level of leadership not accessed by other family members and schoolmates. As a son of a factory worker it is only now I realise the benefits I gained from accessing this elite privilege. It enabled me access the power of decision-making, opened my mind, think of new possibilities and an opportunity to voice understanding. I gained an appreciation of being a demi figurehead within an authoritative order. As Kuhn and Weinberger (2005) suggests, school based leadership experiences improve the likelihood of attaining managerial positions and earning higher wages. I have since gained positions as an assistant principal, senior programs manager, senior consultant, director and senior director. I have accessed higher levels of positional and financial status than most of my school peers and extended family. Based on my childhood experiences I view developing student leadership as a critical learning need. To sponsor a widening of student leadership, schools require quality teachers who have a new approach to content.
John Hattie believes that through Australian Professional Teaching Standards, promotion of teaching excellence will have an impact on student learning. Professional improvements can be made through the employment of behavioural practices such as evaluation, collaborative teamwork, seeking professional feedback and research analysis grounded to professional learning. It is critical that teachers participate in fostering improvement within their professional skills. Hattie clearly states that it is not about reflective evidence that demonstrates best content and resources; it is about reflective evidence, which demonstrates impact on student learning.
It is important that positional educational leaders assist teachers to develop an awareness of significant global contextual concerns, moral imperatives and change agentry (Fullan 1993), and to foster teachers to action improvement of instruction in line with the elements described within Australian Professional Standards for Teachers Classroom Practice Continuum. However, the professional standards continuum cannot do it alone. It is critical that positional leaders engage with the continuum to empower, distribute and transfer leadership. In my present leadership position, I strategically employing the School Accountability and Performance Improvement Framework, professional standards for teaching and John Hattie ‘Visible Learning’ achievement indicators as functioning behavioural modifiers. It is important that I employ the tools of vision, strategic direction and key quality identifiers to agitate whole of organisation change. My moral purpose is persuasive, and is the root to the constellation of activities I take on as a leader
Within recent initiatives embrace elements of collateral leadership to engage behavioural change. These elements assist me to enable collaborative and communication structures, a team capacity to sense emerging unknown problems, define core problems, and to design and implement solutions. These collateral empowered teams operate parallel to the establish hierarchical positional structure of the school. These teams embrace and empower itself through whole of organisation strategic values, goals and directions. As a positional leader my role is to sponsor alliance capacity, avoid fragmentation and coordination of solution progression between the hierarchical structures and the general teaching staff. The purpose is to build whole of organisation capacity. I approach my sponsorship role as a servant leader (Patterson 2003). I focus on the virtues of the team players as the driver to problem solve, and as the designer and implementer of solutions. This approach is to empower co-creative collaboration and builds team leadership through trust, altruism, levels of autonomy and a sense of impacting achievement.
Since 2002 I have been activating various forms of change leadership across a number of strategic initiatives. Through research, on-the-ground experience and on-the-job application I have developed advanced skills in the methods of transforming workplace practice. I operate between plastic skills, cognitive reasoning and an intention to influence. My positional leadership portfolio includes staffing and training responsibilities (Assistant Principal of Northern Territory Open Education Centre), eLearning content materials development (Learning Materials Manager of Northern Territory Distance Learning Service), work unit human resource, finance and performance management (Director of Teaching and Learning with ICT), systems level program/project management (Senior Programs Manager of Teaching and Learning with ICT), and strategic advisory in copyright, digital literacies and eLearning platforms (Senior Consultant eLearning Strategy).
I have successfully demonstrated leadership in systems deployment, advancing change, realigning human resource, strategic planning, policy development, innovative program/project implementation, training and professional learning, and the development of professional learning communities. The leadership qualities I strive for to develop are via the following activities;
- building relationships through explicit communications and progressive teamwork,
- enabling adaptive and responsive behavioural structures,
- engaging innovative professional learning processes,
- transforming work practices,
- enabling synthesis of data and research as the cornerstone for improvement,
- development of transparency and accountability processes,
- articulating and clarifying expected standards based on agreed vision, mandates and objectives,
- embedding national standards, departmental values and organisational strategic goals,
- integrating emerging theories of thought in regards to developing human potential,
- empowering autonomous teams, and
- development of inclusivity through effective partnerships.
To enjoy and thrive as a leader within complex decision-making settings, I continually seek opportunities to extend my leadership skills. I believe a leader requires an adaptive skill-set to creatively address sophisticated, complex and complicated problems. Ultimately my disposition to agitate, innovative and challenge requires me to continually reflect on my behaviours and action and to seek mentor advice. Over the past decade I have attended programs focused on facilitating, coaching, change leadership, organisational risk management, and leader programs. I have also sought to advance my management skills through training in Thomsett and Prince2 project management. It is important that the organisation / business unit recognise their leaders’ competencies, values, ethics and want to lead. Positional leaders have a mandate to change how thing occur within their organisation and be seen as a leader who will honour this mandate. Leaders must employ the autonomy they are granted to act. I have a simple leadership mantra. This being pathos, ethnos and logos (Aristotle).
- Positional leadership require a skill set that is driven from pathos. There must be an emotional urgency. The organisation must make an emotional commitment for any real change to occur. Generating and maintaining the pathos is the essential duty of the leader.
- Action must be embellished with credibility and professional accountability. The leader must have the skills to synthesise vision to make it believable and achievable. The leader must be trustworthy. All participants of the organisation must share the core values. Ethos is the relationship bond, which sustains change.
- It is important that the leader can communicate clearly with explicit purpose. Logos requires understanding. The force of change must be strategically relevant, consistent to universal standards and can be logically understood as an improvement to the organisation. The organisation must be the story of the improvement.