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LEADERSHIP STRENGTHS

Developing your

leadership strengths As leaders we should be aware of our own particular leadership strengths, what they bring to the team, and how they might hinder the performance of others. Alan Cowley asks ‘have you evaluated your leadership strengths lately?’

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LEADERSHIP STRENGTHS

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couple of times each year I dedicate 15 minutes or so to complete an online assessment of my leadership strengths (search the web for ‘free strengths finder’ to find similar tools). The one I use asks me to respond to over 150 questions and then analyses my responses and lists my strengths in rank order from highest to lowest. It recognises 34 different leadership strengths. Each strength is listed with a score out of 100 attached. The results matter to me. This isn’t a test that you can pass or fail; there are no right or wrong results. It isn’t a case of one-sizefits-all. It’s a test that shows the leadership strengths that you most naturally use and shows you those that you have but do not use as frequently. The most useful bit for me is to contemplate the results and ask myself if my preferred strengths are the ones that best suit my business model, and whether my performance would be enhanced by developing some of those strengths that I obviously have but currently under-employ. Have I got the balance right?

Knowing my predominant strengths gives me confidence in my capacity to provide the best service possible As a consultant, educational innovator, writer and

commentator I naturally have other methods of assessing my performance: how successfully we fulfil each client’s brief, the extent to which course content successfully meets the needs of all delegates, the amount of ‘value-added’ we provide for clients by identifying and resolving underlying issues they may not have been aware of – being but a few. But knowing my predominant strengths gives me confidence in my capacity to provide the best service possible for clients and knowing those strengths I employ less frequently provides me with a way of checking how our service could be improved. The awareness of leadership strengths is not something that lends itself to the British culture – it smacks of introspection, emotional intelligence...opening cans of worms! The vast majority of leaders in the UK prefer just to come to work and get on with it and little thought is given to the process of leadership. Perhaps the generalisation implied by the term ‘leadership styles’ puts people off. I believe that ‘leadership styles’ add to the confusion as they serve little purpose. The truth is that successful leaders are able to adapt their ‘leadership style’ to meet different circumstances and situations. Also, the temptation to invent the most ridiculous and unflattering labels (‘The Mushroom’: keeps everyone in the dark; ‘The Seagull’: swoops in, squawks and dumps; ‘The Kipper’: twofaced and gutless) does little to convince the sceptic that ‘leadership styles’ are to be taken seriously. But if performance is important – and we all know that in schools it’s vital – then we should be aware of those strengths we have that have a positive

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We should be aware of those strengths we have that have a positive influence on our performance influence on our performance, and those that we under-employ that might be able to resolve weaknesses in performance. Let me give you an example. Within education, the promotion of teaching (with the exception of leading practitioners) and admin staff generally requires the appointee to acquire a function that includes the management of colleagues’ performance either as a middle, or senior manager. Usually, the criteria used in making that appointment revolves around the performance of the appointee in their previous role. Within the job description you will have defined the role to be played by the appointee, but what measures do you take to ensure that the lucky candidate actually possesses the skills to deliver the role? I believe that this problem is illustrated quite clearly by two of the most common failings identified in Ofsted inspection reports within the Leadership and Management section where performance is deemed inadequate. Reports frequently mention the need for leadership and management to ensure: •

“strategies to improve the quality of teaching and learning are implemented rigorously”, and “performance management

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and target setting are effective in holding staff to account for their performance” In other words, the people appointed to the management positions were not fulfilling the roles they were appointed to deliver. Much of this problem is inherent in the nature of the teaching profession which attracts caring, nurturing individuals who like harmonious relationships. Whilst these three

The strengths needed for success in one sphere of education may not be the ones required for management roles 14

characteristics might be seen as strengths in our relationships with our pupils, when it comes to managing the underperformance of others, different strengths are needed. This is where the analysis of leadership styles comes in useful. The strengths needed for success in one sphere of education may not be the ones required for management roles. Surely, it should be a function of leadership and management to ensure that all staff are equipped with the skills they need to carry out their roles effectively. Hoping something will happen is not good enough. A survey conducted by Ofsted in 2010 concluded that schools were good at delivering training on ‘technical’ matters such as the best way to teach reading, and found that the majority of CPD revolved around English and Maths. But leadership requires ‘softer’ skills, and we rarely give these any serious attention.

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Currently, most schools have no mechanism for identifying the leadership strengths of staff members Currently, most schools have no mechanism for identifying the leadership strengths of staff members, nor a way of analysing which strengths are needed for different roles. A quick read through the assessment tool I use will give you all the answers. I find that my results group themselves into three basic blocks. There are 12 strengths that fall into the 100 - 95 score and are strengths like: •

Developer – recognise and cultivate potential in others


LEADERSHIP STRENGTHS

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ed th 1. Has the SLT explor strengths? concept of leadership rengths does 2. What leadership st ssess? the SLT collectively po e (search the web for ‘Fre selection Strengths Finder’ for a of assessment tools). ip strengths 3. How can a leadersh ed in staff assessment tool be us development?

Don’t forget, the assessment tool will rank your responses from 1st – 34th. The spread of the scores is the important point. Two people might have identical lists of strengths in exactly the same order from 1st – 34th but one might have scores ranging from 100 – 99 across the whole assessment, and the other from 80 – 14. This gives a very different picture of how secure each of the strengths is for the two individuals. Be open about what you are doing – there should never be any shame

• •

Ideation – able to find connections between seemingly disparate phenomena Command – can take control of a situation and make decisions Futuristic – able to inspire others with their visions of the future

Then there are 12 that fall into the 95 – 80 category which I’m delighted to have in my armoury like: • •

Maximizer – seeks to transform something strong into something superb Activator – able to turn thoughts into actions

There are no right or wrong answers – just indications And finally 10 that fall into the 80 – 50 category for which I see very little professional application within my role, such as: •

Harmony – don’t enjoy

conflict, seeks areas of agreement Adaptability – take things as they come and discover the future one day at a time.

Now I could quite easily point out to you roles such as a counsellor, or mediator, where Harmony and Adaptability would be essential strengths. As I say, there are no right or wrong answers – just indications.

So, how can you use such assessments to improve your performance? So, how can you use such assessments to improve your performance? Simply read through each of the strength definitions and ask yourself how useful they would be within your role. If you have any of those appearing lower down your list – with markedly lower scores – think seriously about how you adapt your ways of working to develop opportunities to improve that strength.

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There should never be any shame attached to possessing a desire to improve your performance attached to possessing a desire to improve your performance. Talk to team members about your results – see if they agree with them; this sort of open conversation might possibly reveal a strength you hadn’t considered where others find you particularly effective, or in need of developing. Try to encourage other team members to go through the assessment as well, and even though they don’t have to share the results, they could use them for selfreflection and as a tool for career development. Any leadership team that has a comprehensive insight into its collective strengths can identify those aspects of leadership that would add to their effectiveness, and develop the capacity accordingly. Perhaps you need: Arranger – can figure out how all the pieces and resources can be arranged for maximum productivity. n 15 3

Leadership strengths  

As leaders we should be aware of our own particular leadership styles, what they bring to the team, and how they might hinder the performanc...

Leadership strengths  

As leaders we should be aware of our own particular leadership styles, what they bring to the team, and how they might hinder the performanc...

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