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Inspiring leadership in education … too

Inspiring Leadership in Education Word Cloud

Discussions with principals across Australia about inspiring leadership in education have proven insightful and exhilarating. Although in the tedious stage of typing out the interviews, approximately 50000 words and counting … I think i’ll be a touch typist soon …, it has provided the opportunity to reflect on responses and common themes. Interestingly, most principals commenced their reflective journey with a ‘discomfort’ of the term inspiration. However, as the interview progressed, so did the principals’ comfort with the concept and the acceptance, that indeed they might be inspirational. There was one exception – a North Queensland principal – he was all for it from the get go!

Is that discomfort because we as leaders don’t often reflect on our influence on others? Is it because inspirational leadership in education is somewhat intangible? Or is that inspiring leaders are self-effacing? Things to ponder as the APPA partnered research continues.

Discussing the criteria for selecting Inspiring Principal of the Year, as part of the Public Teaching Awards, with the South Australian Education Department led, once again, to the Australian Professional Standards for Principals. It was time for a chat with people from AITSL about the standards, and the 360 feedback tool. The tool contains 15 attributes, designed by principals for principals, with Attribute 7 being Inspires and motivates. The notion of 360 feedback proved enticing.

It prompted me to the re-read the limitations of my research documented in the published research article (You can find links to the article and other resources on leading to inspire in the AITSL Clearinghouse). The limitations section stated, “Research has primarily focused on participants in the inspiring relationship independently of each other.”

Mmmmm … why not talk to staff at the schools of the inspiring principals? So, I approached 4 interviewed principals about speaking with their staff and asking questions like, ‘is your principal inspiring?’ At this stage, 6 staff members from 3 schools across two states have been interviewed. Another wonderful experience!

From the 360 feedback, the amazing … well I was amazed … feature was the shared lexicon. When I talked with staff, they used the same language and style of language used by the principal … with the same level of passion for the vision and values! The reason I was amazed was that inspiring principals firmly believed that I would hear similar things from staff as what I heard from them. One principal added, ‘if you don’t, then I haven’t been doing my job’.

Participants in the 360 process were asked to identify the 5 standout behaviours they believed were critical for inspiring leaders. They selected the behaviours from 30 that were identified through research. Review the featured image above … it’s the word cloud of their responses!

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