Leaders of Learning Network

I met a teacher today who has been applying for Principal teacher jobs without success.

One of the problems is that many jobs ask for leadership experience – but how do you get that experience if you’re not in a leadership position?

Many people manage to gain such experience by being in the right-place-at-the-right-time – i.e. they are lucky enough to get formal acting-up experience due to circumstances in their own school.  We’ve tried to address this at senior management level by opening out all such opportunities to external candidates but we can’t take it below that level due to the impact it would have on class teaching.

However, we’ve had a number of conversations recently which have stressed that ‘leadership’ is not something that is the sole preserve of people in ‘leadership’ positions. The question is whether or not we could come up with some kind of scheme for people who aspire to leadership positions in schools by linking a school-wide responsibility, which they might have volunteered for, with a formal leadership network?

For example, I might be leading a group on formative assessment in my school. By joining the network of “Leaders of Learning”, who lead learning and teaching groups in their own school, cluster or even authority wide, I have a recognised leadership position within the authority.  The network would meet regularly, have links to other groups and authority wide initiatives.

We could also provide specific training opportunities for the network which would link with the possibility of formal qualifications.

When applying for a promoted position in the authority I would have the formal recognition that I have held a leadership position – thereby addressing one of the dificulties so many people face by not being in the right-place-at-the-right-time.

I much prefer this kind of system to a fast tracking scheme – as the police use – as it’s inclusive and links nicely with our priority to share leadership and develop learning and teaching.

My only concern might be that some people might see this idea as getting people to take on leadership responsibilities on the cheap – is this exploitation?

4 thoughts on “Leaders of Learning Network

  1. Exploitation? Voluntary membership of a network devised to enhance a persons leadership skills, is in my view not exploitative. It is an indication that a person is willing to work towards a goal and demonstrate their commitment to developing themselves for a position in management. If this new initiative becomes a reality I for one would be more than happy to volunteer, as I would look upon it as a positive step forward in my professional development.

  2. That you are asking this question is a very good sign. It’s not exploitive – it’s consistent with the recommendation that people undertake volunteer work to gain experience – but there are some caveats.

    First, in my experience, a major criterion for promotion to a leadership position is obedience. Though this is counterintuitive, it is often the desire of existing managers to hire new managers that will ‘toe the line’. Obviously, this does not result in the selection of very effective leaders. So you need to ensure that the ‘leaders of learning’ network does not constitute some kind of obedience test. There need to be opportunities to assume leadership in areas that are outside the domain of the organization’s management, and in some cases even run contrary to the interests or objectives of the organization’s management (that’s why, eg., union activity should also be recognized as leadership experience). This looks like it does satisfy this condition, though it should be clear that this is the case.

    Second, the biggest problem with the requirement that people volunteer is that it self-selects wealthier and more privileged candidates (think of the movie ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ where the protagonist ended up living in a subway station while completing the brokerage firm’s unpaid internship. All leadership activities ought to be completed during something like normal working hours. Requiring unpaid overtime will self-select just as surely as a minimum income test will.

    That said, I am heartened by the overt recognition that people often obtain leadership experience (and hence leadership positions) though random chance – being in the right place at the right time. People should understand that managers and supervisors – and for that matter CEOs and professors – are not particularly smarter than other people, just luckier.

  3. I have spoken with teachers who have had leadership development experience at Columba1400 and Leadership Trust which focus on personal leadership and raising self awareness.I wonder if it is that the people who are in right place at the right time have a level of self awareness that allows them to see and take advantage of the opportunities? And would these be the people who would take advantage of the creative ways round the issue that you suggest?
    Of course – without having insight to the actual recruitment process it is difficult to assess the potential for future success if leadership experience is gained in other ways. Maybe the recruitment panel would always favour someone with team leadership experience meeting specific criteria -which would be a pity.

  4. Pingback: Don’s Learning Log » Blog Archive » Building Leadership Capacity

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