Friday, 23 November 2018

5 Biggest Challenges of Leadership (And Solutions)

Leadership is tough! You expect it to be tough, it's why you get paid more to do the job, but there are some aspects of the role that are much tougher than others.

Thinking for Everybody - As a leader, all responsibility for what happens within your department rests upon your shoulders. If you have a strong team things should generally run smoothly, but if you lead a weaker team,  you will find yourself having to think for all of the people on your team to ensure that your department runs as it should. If you don't, you find yourself left with lots of pieces to pick up and often some unnecessary dramas to resolve. But worst of all for a leader, is the exhaustion of thinking for everybody.

Solution: Train your staff to think and do for themselves. This initially takes time as you train your staff up to the high quality that you expect and you will need a lot of patience as you explain each system and expectation to them and model  it to your standard, however, once your staff are thinking for themselves, your job will become so much easier!

Make your staff accountable! If you brush their errors under the carpet, they will never be held accountable, but also won't learn. You don't want to punish them or make them feel bad for their mistakes, but you do need to make them answerable and identify what strategies they are going to put in place to ensure the errors don't happen again.

Providing staff with information and deadlines in advance and having this displayed in a common place, such as the staff room will allow teachers to organise their own time and check  for key information when they need to, meaning you will not need to think for them as you have provided them with the information and where to find it at a time they are ready to.
Staying Up-to-date - A leader should always be on top of the latest developments in education. The thing is, education is always changing and new ideas and systems are constantly being introduced. It can become difficult to stay on top of  the latest pedagogy, but it is your job to.

Solution: Appoint great Middle Leaders and allow them the responsibility to develop their area of responsibility. If you don't have the budget for this, many teachers will be willing to do it for the experience in exchange for time back. By giving them your trust and the responsibility to develop their subject area, they will remain on top of new developments. This means that they will feedback their ideas to you once they have fully carried out their research, meaning you don't have to. Of course, a good leader would always do a little!

Equally, if you hear about a new development, you can delegate this to your Middle Leaders to  research and implement.
Leading Change - Change can be a tricky thing! Change is usually good, but there are times where change can go horribly wrong too. The most difficult thing is getting everybody on board though, particularly those that are happy to float along. This can cause negativity which isn't beneficial for anybody. As a leader it is your job to inspire everybody on the team to move forward with changes positively - a difficult job!

Solution: Taking it slow is the first step in leading change. It's important not to steamroll staff by changing too much at once. Begin with small, easy to make changes before moving onto the bigger changes. Ensure staff are well aware of any changes that are going to take place in advance so they have time to prepare and adjust to them.

Get your staff on board! One of the key reasons why staff are not on board with change is because they haven't been involved in the planning process and don't understand the reason for the change. Include staff in the School Improvement Plan so their voices are heard and they understand the direction the school is moving in. If they understand and are involved in all of this, they are much more likely to be positive about changes.

Trial it first! Before you make all of your team change to a new idea or system, make sure you have trialled it first so you have clear evidence of its success. A sure fire way to lose  the confidence of your staff is to make them go through change for you to realise that the change doesn't work and they need to revert back to an old system. It will also mean you can instil confidence in your staff with the evidence of your trial.

Spot your team doing a great job! Be present with the changes taking place and be on hand to offer support to your team. Let them know when they are doing a great job!
Challenging Conversations - Challenging conversations are never pleasant and they are an essential part of the leadership role. Sometimes people takes these conversations on the chin and accept their errors, but sometimes people can become angry or upset as a result which makes it very difficult to resolve and move forward. This was always something I found the most difficult in my role as a leader.

Solution: Swallow the frog! Don't waste time over-analysing or thinking too much about the conversation you need to have because it becomes harder and harder the longer you wait.

Make sure you have a clear plan of what you need to say, backed up with evidence. You need to be prepared for the various directions the conversation may take and it's easy to forget key points. Make sure you know what you need to say and you cover all of your points.

Listen and be sympathetic, but remain firm too. We are all human and people make mistakes, but as a leader it is your job to hold people accountable for their mistakes and ensure they don't happen again. You also need to be aware of the areas they may need further support in and have a clear plan of action that is agreed on in the meeting.

Once the issue has been discussed and you have a plan of action in place, move on. Don't hold it against team members and ensure they they achieve the goals you have set.
Time for You - And the most important one, time for yourself! Nobody is any good without having a good work-life balance in order to relax and do things they enjoy. As a leader you work hard, damn hard! Often you take work home with you, attend events  after school, meetings, working late - all of these things cut into your very important time! If you keep it up long term, it really will get to you!

Solution: Naturally, managing your time effectively is important. Prioritise the tasks that are the most important, organise your time and get them done. Don't waste time over-thinking a task, just make a start on it and you can always edit it later.

Delegate jobs to you team. Yes, you're a leader but that doesn't mean you have to do every job, it simply means that you have to oversee every job. Utilise the skills of your team members to ensure your school runs smoothly.

Finally, accept that you are only human and you can't do it all, all of the time! As long as your're doing your very best by your school, your children, your staff and yourself - that is enough!

Do you have any tips on ways to overcome these 5 challenges?
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