For the upcoming ACE Leadership Workshops for Heads of Schools, as a team of educators, we have narrowed down key skills that leaders will need to focus on as they conclude a year of lockdown and new normal. The road ahead will be peppered with new challenges, and the past 10 months are simply indicative of how volatile the next 15 to 18 months will be. School leadership teams have invested a lot of time and effort in skilling their teachers, communicating with their parents and facilitating effective learning experiences for the students virtually that they nurture but for most parts, it has been reactive. The experiences of the recent past must now reflect on how and what
school leaders and their respective managements imbibe to truly combat this volatility and become proactive.
I have always maintained that school leaders must adapt, learn to accept new learnings and think differently each year, weighing in the changing variables that present themselves. While in the past, there was a continuity to the course, and the course itself demanded limited deviation from the routine planning, the next 2 years will require every bit of the 21 st century skills that we hope to develop in our children. Leaders with their growth mindset will have to develop foresight, and creatively, collaboratively communicate with all stake holders demonstrating their ability to evaluate different stages of school evolution, critically. The ability to pre-empt, and plan ahead, factor in contingencies through well structured R & D and empowering their team will be the game-changer for those that thrive and those that find themselves dependent on intervention. The year ahead will belong to those that welcome the journey as a new beginning, and detach
themselves from some of the baggage of yesteryears. The past can only help gain experience but the months ahead will be about ‘re-engineering’ and change management. There will need to be a sense of urgency as far as communication is concerned, more personalisation and patience as every parent will need attention to their specific problems and queries and those that believe in generalisations will find their community become smaller, numbers in their school dwindling. School leaders will have to demonstrate patience and creativity when providing solutions especially financial and emotional for parents if they have to grow the numbers, and most importantly a determined effort with the learning outcomes that must, must see a revision to ensure that learning is impactful. There must be questions raised, and answers demanded from certifying academic boards, for these professional organisations also value ground realities and some of the changes in the past have been a result of appeals. All of this centred around better learning experiences for students, of course! School leaders must recognise that mental health of the students and teachers alike will go a long way in shaping the future performance outcomes, and this requires timely intervention, action and dedicated effort that is consistent and creative. Those that rush into “achievement” targets will find more problems in the long term, and therefore exercising a balance must be a skill that is developed immediately.
Teachers are the core to the success of a school in the months ahead, and require every bit of personalised attention, and the consequences of the past 10 months will surface at some point in
their execution. Their well being, supporting them skill up, and guiding them requires a mammoth task but needs careful consideration. Leaner structures given the financial constraints will lead to more pressure on their time, subsequently more conflicts, and this must be anticipated and therefore HR Heads must be active in engaging with team members and creating opportunities for
them to express themselves, also accept some short-term discussions with an assurance that the future is bright. Rotation of facilitator time, classes and “work-hours” needs a serious re-think. The path ahead will demand more compassion and understanding, more effort to skill and help each teacher, and most definitely constructive feedback to help everyone improve.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, the next 15-18 months will require managements to support their school leaders who will need to anticipate, and think ahead and also provide solutions as protocols even before problems arise. How does one do that? The experience matters, collaboration helps, connecting with experts and professionals and also some lessons from the corporate world. It is important to develop a mindset that allows you the freedom to make decisions basis of the moment and these moments in the next 15-18 will be like the mutations to the virus that we have come to understand. Dynamic, different and present and one has to learn to adapt. Hardwork, digging deeper to find the strength and the desire, and also taking ownership and being accountable are all given. Bottom line is, school leaders will have to start thinking like entrepreneurs – taking some risks, identifying gaps, finding solutions and also pursuing that dogged passion for what they do and what they want to achieve. When you start thinking that everything is at stake, it is remarkable how alert the mind is to the possibilities that are or not, and how the strategies and plans therefore become proactive.
Up for the challenge school leaders?