A toothpick slowly scraping at the mortar between the bricks

When first organising my thoughts for the third prompt in the #edublogsclubs challenge – Leadership, I quickly jotted down some ideas I was toying with while waiting for my dad at a medical appointment.

notes on my iPhone

Reflecting back to my Masters in Educational Leadership, I was happy to recall quite a number of researchers, whose papers we were reading and writing about a decade ago. What did leadership mean in the years prior to my completing the masters 10 years ago?

There were a number of areas we explored including change, context, quality learning, leading authentic learning, but one area that stayed with me was that of authentic leadership.

Contemporary approaches to leadership are defined within the context of the authenticity of a leader. “Authentic leadership implies a genuine kind of leadership: a hopeful, open-ended, visionary and creative response to social circumstances, as opposed to more short-sighted, precedent-focussed and context-constrained practices typical of management” (Begley, 2003 p. 101).

My own reflections on leadership at the time were such that I have almost been catapulted back to 2006. Could these same thoughts still to be here in 2017?

In my own leadership at this school, I found it very difficult at first trying to get others to move with me, especially those who had been there a very long time. Sinclair’s (1998) comment that quotes a company CEO who says that the same old people sitting around talking equates to no change at all is reflective of the practices I found at this place. I have run up against such brick walls many times in my own leadership roles where this attitude is prevalent. I like to use the metaphor of a toothpick slowly scraping at the mortar between the bricks. It has taken a long time to get to this point already, where people acknowledge your passion for change, and begin to see it as non-threatening but as a means to improving the current practices in order to align ourselves with our ever changing environment in which our students are expected to survive.

It reminded me of this:

Twitter feed from Research Ed 2016

and sadly even this:

“instead of risking…” via https://marketoonist.com

To some degree, no I won’t colour it with ‘fancy’ talk – THIS IS the reason I moved out of full-time positions in schools. I became very frustrated and torn at what was happening and just how hard it was to break through that mortar with a toothpick. I left in search of a wrecking ball! Don’t gasp! I’m better now. I have my sights set on this tool called a mortar rake which speeds things up a little!

much more practical than a toothpick!

But seriously, my experience of leadership has been both positive and negative. I have worked with many wonderful leaders who gave me plenty of opportunities, who trusted me and let me shine and who I will never forget. Sadly, I have also worked with those who seemed threatened and unhappy no matter how hard we tried. Each experience assisted me in forming my own skills in leadership which I will continue to develop for the rest of my life. You see, I believe leadership is like learning – it never ends.

I often wonder whether there is such a thing as ‘born leaders’ and while I can name a few I think may be, I can’t help but think – really? They were born with leadership skills? Dr Jan-Emmanuel De Neve and his associates found that it may indeed be in your genes!

But for me…I say…No… A leader ‘learns’ the skills… from other leaders, who in turn learned them from others and so it goes… .

Giancola and Hutchinson (2005) emphasise that the transformed leader’s primary focus is “to build a team of leaders who are going in the same direction based on the similar belief that a leader’s main focus is to serve and support the growth of others” (p. 74).

To be a leader

This is a little closer to what I think leadership may be… an opportunity to empower others, only it may also be fruitful if some are going in a different direction just so to add a bit of spice to the journey. I like to be challenged – but not to the point where I feel I cannot go on. I felt that sometimes throughout my career.

I moved on eventually but it did eat me up for a while.

I like what I do now.

For many years I imagined I could do more as a Deputy Principal and sometimes I even considered Principalship but I’m glad I came to my senses even though it did take 20 years! As an education consultant, I get to lead but more importantly, I get to serve and collaborate. I like that better. My passion and vision for better learning continue to spur me, to speak out, to help others, to serve, to learn, to collaborate. I don’t think I’ll ever give this up.

Thanks for reading 🙂

References (from my paper ‘Dimensions which shape contemporary approaches to leadership.’ (2006)

Begley, P.T. (2003). Authentic Leadership and Collaborative Process: Foundations of School Community. Leading & Managing, Vol. 9. No 2, pp. 100-105

Giancola, J. & Hutchinson, J. (2005). Elements of transformed leadership culture. In Transforming the culture of school leadership. (pp. 78-98). Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

Sinclair, A. (1998). The traditional path: Heroic masculinity. In Doing leadership differently: Gender, power and sexuality in a changing business culture (pp. 37-53). Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Print Friendly

4 thoughts on “A toothpick slowly scraping at the mortar between the bricks

  1. Jo:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience about leadership. I like and agree with you how leadership is learning. Yep. Sums it all up. Glad you found what you like and feel where you can make a difference.

  2. I wonder if different leaders were ‘born’ for different places? Sadly we were just at the wrong place for the wrong time?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *