Chapter One is about listening with respect to the voices of your school community. They will create together a Shared Vision for the school needed for their children, for their community. Such a Shared Vision provides ownership, relationship and alignment. They will then deliver this vision with commitment and passion.
To do this requires a powerful enabling process. Chapter One describes in detail one such practical process. Here is a checklist for a process that works:
Choose a suitable time for creating the Shared Vision.
Decide who to invite to form the vision-creating community.
Create a set of Inquiry Probes: questions that will dig both deeply and broadly into the experiential richness of each person invited.
In groups first generate broad creative responses to each Probe, then achieve consensus on the top responses.
Use the priority ideas to write drafts of the Shared Vision and go through a critiquing process to get the Final Shared Vision.
Identify the Core Values in the Shared Vision and live them.
Clarify the areas that need to be researched to shift the school from its current reality towards the Shared Vision.
Form school community “Preparation for Action” teams and give each of them a year to research a different area and design action recommendations.
Based on whole staff critique of these recommendations, leaders create the Long-Term School Development Plan.
Implement the recommendations, live the Plan, work the Plan.
We have “road-tested” this process. It has been refined and refined through implementation across many school community contexts in six countries. It is current. We were using it yesterday inside a school in Sweden.
In this chapter we also share the ongoing blend of research and practice that characterises this whole book. Our narrative is carried by the voices of real people delivering in real schools, backed by a rich tradition of research.
In Chapter Two our aim is to call into question where time, energy and resources are used in a school. These are tough calls to make. Schools are commonly very busy places and the competition for attention can be fierce and constant. By making clear decisions about what the real work is, and what it is not, in your school, you enable everyone to focus and align.
We have used eleven provocations, rather than providing answers. The provocations are designed to stimulate your reflection on your priorities, your real work, and to dig deeply into your own experience. These provocations act in the same way as the Inquiry Probes used in our Shared Vision process in Chapter One. They reinforce the value of internal questioning. The provocations can be addressed individually, in small teams, or as a whole staff. They can provide a focus for professional development days. The key is to probe for clarity, so that time is spent on what is agreed as the real work of the school, and not wasted on the many distractions calling for attention.
When your daily work is aligned strongly to an internally-generated Shared Vision there is confidence in the value of the work. Focussing on the real work brings clarity, joy, simplicity and decisiveness to learning environments.
In Chapter Three we focus on the three key lines of tension in leadership:
the tension line between leadership as disposition and leadership as position;
the tension line between leadership and management; and
the tension line between research and practice.
These are all healthy tensions to be savoured by all involved in leadership. We encourage you to constantly refer back to these tension lines in your daily practice, and as you read this book. They have held us honest in our own leadership, and have done the same for the many leaders we have coached and are currently coaching.
Our aim is to open up the reality of school leadership and to focus your thinking on leading and leadership delivery through eight leadership challenges:
Holding your nerve through the inevitable storms faced while leading.
Designing and delivering mental model change, which is at the root of growth in any school.
Creating and maintaining alignment to our shared commitments.
Using time wisely.
Delivering accountability based on personal responsibility.
Growing leaders and leadership at all levels of the school.
Have you ever been part of a team, a school, a department, a group or a family that delivered something that really mattered to you? If so, you will recognise yourself in this book. If you want that experience again and again, you will find pathways in this book. If you have never or seldom experienced this deep satisfaction, then the book will be a revelation.
Think about a time when you really delivered something authentic. Remember, go back inside yourself and feel it. What set you off, what kept your momentum, and what ended it well for you? What were the feelings of action that embodied your delivery?
In Chapter Four our aim is to raise to conscious awareness the gap that always exists between what we say and what we do. This is unavoidable. The key is to have systems around us to ensure our awareness. If each of us is not delivering on our promises then the school bogs down in wishful thinking, good intentions and empty words. When we do deliver, absolutely nail something together, that is a delicious feeling of professional satisfaction and achievement that we all deserve.
A Shared Vision creates a journey. As we go on journeys we must come to agreement on how we will live together. This is the focus of Chapter Five. We must agree on what set of core values we will live by. A school’s culture begins with our core values as the foundation. A leadership responsibility is to build, and be caretaker of, the school’s culture. This requires a deliberate action plan to embed what becomes the fabric of daily life – the culture. Cultural elements evolve and blend with one another to create our school’s capacity to deliver.
Sitting around, taking time defining core values, is not what this is about. Living the values, modelling them, articulating them and teaching them, delivers aligned action and results in the emergence of operational definitions of what we all stand for. This is what really matters; what do your values look like and feel like “on the hoof”, as lived in your school community.
When you are living your core values your culture comes alive.
The community is the cloak in which your school is wrapped. This creates a culture of belonging. Schools are essential community citizens as partners with the family to ensure the education of the community’s children. Each school creates its own community identity as embodied in the examples in this chapter.
Ignoring the values of the broader community ignores the heritage of each child and separates home and school, in an arbitrary way that does not exist in the lived learning of a child. We have no right to do this.
The school is an important partner with the family in the education of each child. These partnerships require the building of productive relationships and sharing of the deep insights we each bring to the learning of each child and group of children. In Chapter Six we share rich examples from the many school communities with whom we have worked and are currently working.
When the whole community aligns around the school they want for their children you have a school that delivers.