“If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.”Dolly Parton
When I was appointed CEO of my organisation I decided I needed to know more about building and growing a business so I completed an MBA. What became apparent during those two part time years at South Bank University was the significance that good leadership played above all else in the success of any organisation. I was so struck by it that I wrote a book on leadership in 2009 and the second edition has just been published.
Leadership is not easy and it’s harder the more complex your organisation becomes. If leadership was easy we would have many more good leaders than we have. Look at the past year at the catalogue of failing leaders in banks, business, charities and politics.
Last week I had the pleasure of judging for the Nursery Management Today Awards. In a world where early years is often mis-understood, devalued and poorly represented it was very reassuring to meet so many diverse people from across the UK who demonstrated inspiring ,competent and transformational leadership skills whether in developing and running nurseries, training or practice improvement. What was clear was they had all understood that leadership was key to their success.
Leadership is both an art and a science. But I believe the success is best achieved when leadership is framed within emotional intelligence. We can have all the systems, processes and policies we like but unless they are developed, applied and embedded in an emotionally sensitive way there is very little chance of a successful result.
Flourishing organisations build in leadership in at every level. This begins with a clear vision which is backed by everybody. A core set of values which drives behaviour and communication, systems that support those behaviour, room for innovation and creativity, ways of enabling staff to have a voice in the business and creating opportunities including performance management throughout the life cycle of the staff to develop and extend their capabilities. Leadership at every level. At LEYF our Aspiring Leaders programme has been key to the retention and promotion of staff so that now 70% of staff are recruited from within the organisation and each one is prepared to go the extra mile.
Finally, leaders need to be brave and be prepared to stand up for what they believe. WE need to be disruptive influencers. This is critical in a sector where we have to advocate for the most vulnerable in society; children. We have a sector where many are prepared to do this whether it’s through a campaign such as the Ofsted Big Conversation or an initiative like Men in Childcare or a debate (Margaret Horn lecture AGENDA, here ) raising the importance of childcare being an infrastructure issue. These are just some big examples. Being brave is also about facing a difficult conversation with a colleague, or talking to a parent about a problem or changing the pedagogical approach in your setting.
Being a leader can have a downside, if you are the leader of the whole enterprise you are also chief problem- solver and that can be a lonely place. Professionally this is where coaching and mentoring can help because there is only so much your friends and family can cope with! At the NMT judging we talked about this and lightweight TV programmes like Gogglebox, cooking whilst listening to MagicFM, reading a good novel or brisk walks were all suggested.
Successful leaders seem to be able to do three things: behave in a particular way, have an ability to understand the needs of people and circumstances, and apply certain leadership styles at the right time. Good leaders appear to have acute self- awareness and understand the ideals that many people associate with the role of leader and can pre-empt how they will react. Understanding yourself and being tuned in is a great start. Also keep a check on your ego. No one likes a show off!