Conversations about leaders, leading and leadership are always worth having, if they help to refocus minds on the skills and talents we need to have in influential positions in our schools and other institutions. As the new term begins, we take a thoughtful look at what makes a leader and what that tells us about professional learningpdf-6628517

CPD Week info sheet – 5 minds for the future.pdf

In times of change, learners inherit the Earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.
Eric Hoffer

Finding out about Five Minds for the Future
A few weeks ago I was fortunate to attend an evening lecture at Wellington College in which Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School Howard Gardner and Master of Wellington College Dr Anthony Seldon discussed Gardner’s book, Five Minds for the Future. The book is essentially about the skills and attributes we all might usefully develop and nurture so that we can face the future with creativity in spite of the fast-changing demands on our abilities.

One of the key themes to emerge from the discussion was an acknowledgement of the fact that everyone, regardless of what their job title may be, is a leader. If you’re influencing others, you’re in a leadership position; it’s important for us all to take that on board. What kind of leader would we wish to be?

There was a general consensus that leaders succeed in affecting other people’s minds through narratives – impressive stories which inspire and speak to other people. These stories may involve a stretch – enough to grab attention but not too much to collapse the story – and, perhaps most importantly, the ‘leader’ embodies the story told.

If we relate that to the school setting, the many ways in which all school staff are in positions of influence, and so leadership, are obvious. But does professional learning for all staff encourage them to ask the key question: what kind of a leader am I? Taking this simple yet effective approach helps to ensure reflection and reflexivity so that learning can more easily become contextualised and inform real change in the classroom.

Another theme to emerge from the discussion at Wellington College concerns the notion that learning cannot ever be error-free. True creativity comes from being willing to take risks; a feature shared with leadership. The more that we delve into notions of leadership, creativity and learning, the more it’s possible to discern deep connections between them and this may help us to devise professional learning opportunities which more overtly honour these connections. Perhaps this is what will nurture school staff to develop a robustness of temperament which will allow them to acknowledge the learning and leadership opportunities in every aspect of their professional lives.

The risks we take with creative teaching and learning don’t have to be ‘successful’ if we expect them to be fruitful! There is professional learning to be had in every situation we encounter at work and it’s this attitude which makes our leadership qualities evident.

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This e-bulletin issue was first published in April 2010

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.