Crystalised Leadership

The challenges we overcome serves to strengthen our resolve, build our confidence and therefore our ability to approach the obstacles we will inevitably face in the future.

It is within these moments we find purpose and identity – a view that has been reinforced for me recently, after appointing 25 leadership positions to energized applicants during a time of significant adversity.

In a three-week window, between staged lockdowns in Victoria due to COVID-19, we have completed interviews and appointments for all Positions of Leadership at Catholic College Wodonga for the 2021 – 2023 period. In total we advertised 25 positions across Catholic Identity, Learning and Teaching and Pastoral Wellbeing. Two positions were advertised externally.

I was recently speaking to a Principal from another regional secondary college regarding our process and how pleasing it was that we were able to complete it in three-week window at the start of Term 3. Our conversation highlighted one point that I have continued to reflect on over recent weeks.

For all the positions we advertised we had at least one applicant from our current staff and in many cases multiple applicants. I have been in educational leadership since 1996 and this is the exception and not the rule. It is not unusual to have at least one position without an applicant. In these situations, we would advertise again internally, approach team of staff or an individual and see if they would be willing to apply.

In this case, there is a difference between the reasons for applying: there are those keen to lead a team and those who are being asked. In our case we are very lucky that our leaders are choosing to lead, they are passionate about their role and truly desire to lead their team and collaborate with other leaders over the next three years.

I recently read Uplifting Leadership by Hargreaves, Boyle and Harris. The book resonates with our current educational climate where we have been impacted by uncertainty and isolation, precipitated by two periods of remote learning due to COVID – 19. The interviews for the positions were uplifting, full of promise and passion and it was inspiring to listen to staff who are prepared to take a risk in this time of uncertainty and lead us forward. The following quote from the authors remind me of the interviews:

“Uplifting leadership entails engaging a talented team that values risk and creativity, acknowledges and tolerates honest mistakes, and has members that participate and play in interchangeable roles and positions.” (p.93)

Hargreaves, Boyle and Harris.

Every staff member who applied for a position did take a risk and in a time of uncertainty it is uplifting for me to see so many staff want to join us in the challenges that will arise over the next three years.

The beauty of having staff choose to lead is that they are committed to current leadership culture and will in turn help us move to the next level as we take risks, develop creativity and use the uncertainty of 2020 to be the platform for our next stage of growth as a community.

Daniel Coyle in Culture Code discusses how companies such as Pixar see times of difficulty and crisis as an opportunity:

“The difference between successful cultures seems to be that they use the crisis to crystallise their purpose.”

Daniel Coyle.

I believe that COVID – 19 has done exactly that for education. The impact on our education systems and on our school, has crystallised our purpose. Never before has it been so important to engage with our students. By engagement, I mean engagement in learning.

As leaders it is our purpose to not only make sure students are connected to our community, that they feel safe and valued, but most importantly that they are engaged in learning.

For me, the engagement in learning is the crystallisation of our purpose. In times of uncertainty we must be uplifting leaders, prepared to take risks, be creative in our approach and build a culture where we collaborate consistently with each other.

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