Sunday, October 19, 2014

Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner


Most of my posts have been describing the things we as teachers and students have been doing as we make our way through our first year. I have really enjoyed chronicling those things from my point of view.

Recently I have been doing a lot of pondering on leadership and how it plays out in an environment such as ours. I thought I would share some of my ponderings.

The title of the post refers to a great, inspirational book I read when I was at my athletic peak! (2 hrs 38 for a marathon!!). It emphasised the loneliness of such a crazy sport. Twice this week I have sought the peace and wonder of the Waitakere Ranges and done some great training. While the training is itself important I realised it was the aloneness I was seeking. Just like back in the marathon days it was those hours of solitude that helped bring some personal coherence to my thinking and I have found that happening again.

The question of leadership has been preying on my mind. Many of our people have been thrust into very big, important and impactful leadership areas which for many has been a big ask.

I remember when I was Deputy Principal I used to get frustrated with my boss (we're now great friends and he has been my most influential mentor) because he seemed to take so long to move some things forward. When I expressed these frustrations with him he used his great line of, "There might be another way of looking at this, Maurie."

There were 2 very important conclusions I formed from this man and our conversations. The first was the absolute golden rule that I would never express these frustrations with anyone else at all. He was the only one I shared them with. It is with a sense of pride that I understand the level of integrity that he presented me with as a way of acting.

The second realisation links to the blog post title. I had a much narrower view of the school and its complex relationships than he did.This is not surprising: I was a DP, a man of action, getting things done and ticking them off. He had a much broader view and was in for the long haul; not being there for years himself but promoting the vision, managing relationships so that was possible, charting a course through very complex issues and growing the people around him. Quick fire fixes may have given some short term solution but didn't keep us in the long game. And most importantly, quick fire fixes reduced the opportunity for people to learn from their leadership experiences and grow as leaders, rather than being shed.

By working with him I began to develop a sense that you didn't really understand the principal job until you actually were in the seat yourself. Even though he provided me with buckets of across school leadership opportunities, it wasn't until I took over from him that I truly realised it wasn't until you were there that you began to understand the role.

Especially in an environment as dynamic and challenging as ours it is vital that leadership, both of operation and preserving, promoting and growing our vision has to be distributed.

When speaking to a colleague who had opened a new school shortly after he had left he said one of the challenges he faced was continually pushing forward with new ideas as he was the one expected to be doing that. He felt that if he wasn't doing that then he would face criticism from those he was working with.

My view is different. I hope they say of my leadership at HPSS that I led the way with a vision and ideas early on in the journey but as time passed others picked up the mantle of bringing the vision to reality as a shared responsibility and that they saw this as opportunity and as a healthy way for a future focused school to travel.

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