Making the most of Middle Leadership

I was delighted to be invited to speak at #TLT15 in Southampton by the wonderful David Fawcett and Jen Ludgate. It was my second time at this event, which is a real highlight of the TeachMeet/educational conference calendar.

I was asked to talk about Making the most of Middle Leadership, so I designed a presentation which I hoped would appeal to aspiring and serving Middle Leaders, in addition to Senior Leaders who are supporting and challenging Middle Leaders to be their best.

Whenever I present at a TeachMeet, a conference, or another CPD event, my intention is to provide a structure for reflection.  I feel strongly that it’s the thinking that counts, and I hope that, as a result of the thinking and the discussion delegates are engaged in, they may be able to hone their practice in some way which impacts positively on the teams they lead, and/or the classes they teach.

Here are some of the questions I asked on Saturday.

  1. Is there a difference between academic and pastoral Middle Leadership? Are there common /distinctive skills (and how do we develop them)?
  2. Why are Middle Leaders so important?  Think about the effect they have on the quality of Teaching and Learning and pupil well-being.  Think, too, about the effect they have on the morale of those within their teams.
  3. What is distinctive about being a Middle Leader, compared with being a classroom teacher without additional responsibility for other staff, and compared with being a senior leader with a whole-school brief?  Think about spheres of influence.
  4.  In the light of the above, what makes Middle Leadership particularly challenging, and what makes it rewarding/satisfying?
  5. What does the BEST Middle Leadership look like?  If you think of the best Middle Leader you have ever known, what would you say were their main skills/qualities?  What effect did they have on those they led?  How do YOU rate with respect to these skills/qualities (and what might others say about you?)
  6. Now think of the WORST Middle Leader you have known, and what major mistakes they made.  Are these traps you could fall into?
  7. How can you prepare yourself to be the Middle Leader you hope to be? Think of learning from positive and negative role models; learning from Twitter, blogs and wider reading; asking for honest feedback from your teams and acting on it.  If you’re applying for a Middle Leader role, can you demonstrate the match between this role and your potential, evidenced by your achievements thus far?

I asked those in the session to try to identify three things they might do differently as a result of their reflections, and what they might stop doing/do less of, to make space and time for this.  I also suggested possible further reading, including posts by Jane Basnett, Andy Lewis and Rory Gallagher.

It was a privilege to be involved in #TLT15.  Thanks to the responsive and receptive audience!

Photo credit: Jen Ludgate

This post was originally published on @staffrm in 2015

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