Saturday, 11 June 2016

Encouraging leadership at Hornby High School

Lots of people in our schools are leaders, whether they want to be or not. Often amongst students leadership develops simply because of age and year group. I spoke to our Year 13 students last week, reinforcing this idea that they are leaders whether they want to be or not. I asked them what sort of leader they might want to be.

I've been in formal leadership roles of some sort or another for three decades. When we are put into those roles we tend to adopt a 'leadership style' that perhaps suits our personality; I certainly have. I remember 'teaching' some of the theory that lies behind leadership some time ago at tertiary level, and at that stage the theory suggested that the best approach to leadership was what the textbooks describe as situational or contingency leadership. The style should shift to suit the situation.

At the time of the Canterbury earthquakes for example authoritarian leadership was often the instant and necessary response as many fell into shock and others (at times not the 'formal leaders'), stepped up to 'take control' because lives were at stake. On the other hand when trying for longer term cultural change in an organisation a far slower and more participatory approach is more suitable.

Underpinning all of this there should in my opinion be a set of values that drive those in leadership positions, and those values might best be described with the words 'servant leadership'. Servant leadership is an idea that has been around for millennia. There is reference to it in Indian and Chinese writings from over two thousand years ago. It made a grand entrance to our western management literature in 1970 with the book 'The servant as leader' by Robert K Greenleaf.

The concept is simple: leaders are servants of those whom they 'lead'. Great leaders in history have often taken this path. Consider the leaders of the world's great religions and reforming movements. Whether it's Islam, Christianity or Buddhism, Mahatma Ghandi, or Christ, or Mohammed, the prime figures have seen themselves as servants of their people.

We would produce better outcomes for our world if we were to encourage out students to model themselves around this idea of servant leadership. A quick Google search will take you to a Wikipedia entry (not everything on Wikipedia is bad) which says this:
Larry Spears identified ten characteristic of servant leaders in the writings of Greenleaf. The ten characteristics are listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of others, and building community. Leadership experts such as Bolman, Deal, Covey, Fullan, Sergiovanni, and Heifitz also reference these characteristics as essential components of effective leadership.
The Center for Servant Leadership at the Pastoral Institute in Georgia defines servant leadership as a lifelong journey that includes discovery of one’s self, a desire to serve others, and a commitment to lead. Servant-leaders continually strive to be trustworthy, self-aware, humble, caring, visionary, empowering, relational, competent, good stewards, and community builders.

You'll find these values described in part at the front of New Zealand's national curriculum; they are a critical part of those concepts whanaungatanga, manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga. At Hornby High School we wrap our values up in these four words: Commitment, Achievement, Resilience, and Respect (our CARR values).

I have already challenged our Hornby High School students to see for themselves what is wrong with our world, to get excited, or get angry, to go out and make a change. There are some big issues out there. We have nearly 340000 children who live in poverty in New Zealand. Is that the sort of world we want to live in? This is a challenge I will continue to lay at their feet.

I am encouraging our students not to wait for someone to GIVE them a leadership role. I am encouraging them to TAKE leadership roles, to get out there and make the changes they think our world needs. This is the true test of their character, of their values.

Nga mihi
Robin Sutton

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