All change- lockdown leadership

Lockdown Leadership- all change.

Last week I was on an online meeting and a staff member asked the others to do a round of applause for me and the leadership team for our dealing of the lockdown situation thus far.

I was moved beyond words because it was a validation, I perhaps didn’t even know I needed, from my team to let me know I was doing the right thing.

We all want to be a good leader.

We all want to be the leader our staff want us to be.

I thought I knew what that was. The current situation has not only changed my perception of myself as a leader but also, I think, the kind of leader my team need me to be.

I like to think that as a leader I am adaptable to different situations and that I am pretty much prepared for anything- possibly many of us felt that way. The more experience you have as a leader and the more situations you ‘live’ through, the more skills you acquire and you become adept at switching styles, often without even noticing.

What skills do we need to be able to lead during a crisis?

The top five skills needed from a leader in times of crisis as defined by the management training institute are:

  • Communication. This is perhaps the most important skill needed when dealing with crisis management.
  • Adaptability. We all love when things go exactly as planned but what happens when the unthinkable happens and our perfect plan turns into a disaster?
  • Self -Control & organisation. Staff need a leader who doesn’t give in to the chaos of the moment.
  • Relationship Management. Being able to build relationships and manage them at different levels.
  • Creativity. The ability to think outside of the box and going with plan b,c,d

It all sounded a bit text book to me so I asked school leaders on Twitter what they had found out about leadership during this crisis and what they felt was important and the results were perhaps inevitably very similar to the above.

  1. Regular communication with staff- the less formal the better was the feeling, Staff need to know we are there for them and that we value them as people not as staff. I’ve realised that they don’t actually need answers all the time just reassurance we are working on them! A phone call or a text was just as important to my staff as an email or Zoom meeting.
  2. The ability to change plans- I don’t need to say very much about this as without this ability we would all have fallen after the first briefing! Continguency planning had taken on another meaning in the last few weeks and for someone who likes to be in control I have had to step out of my comfort zone in more ways than one and recognise I can only control the current day!
  3. The ability to remain positive- as a leader I feel this is perhaps the hardest and most important role. My staff have needed me to remain positive on their darkest days but surprisingly this has helped me BE more positive. The act of ‘pretending’ to others invariably rubbed off on me and I have been able for the past few weeks to see the positives in situations I would previously have struggled with. My daily positive quotes that I tweet and send to staff are a reminder to myself that I can choose how to deal with the day!
  4. Building and supporting our Community- during these uncertain times our role has been one of keeping everyone together, our families and our staff. Many of us, probably most, have gone over and above during past weeks to support our communities. We have seen schools becoming even more important in their communities giving out food, vouchers, home learning packs and other support. For me as a leader I have never felt as close to my community and I did not realise how much they relied on us as a school. I both treasure this and feel a responsibility now, more so than ever before.
  5. Being human – I previously mentioned being positive and it IS really important for staff to feel the power of that positivity from a leader, however, it is also powerful for them to see you as human with insecurities and emotions. I have shown my emotions many times over the past few weeks and I know it has not been viewed as a weakness. I feel I am closer to my staff than ever before and our relationships have become stronger.

The changes to me as a leader that have happened as a result of this crisis are those I value and that I want to hold on to.

My promise is to keep these changes at the forefront of my leadership moving forward-

  • Positivity as a default
  • Being authentic-showing my human side
  • Accepting and building on my responsibility to my community
  • Accepting I do not need to take control

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