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Eight Characteristics of High Performing Leaders

I have just returned from the launch of the Scottish College For Educational Leadership (SCEL) Fellowship programme at Stirling University. On our first day we were lucky to have several speakers who talked about their vision for Scottish Education by 2030. They each had a different perspective and one of these was Professor Clive Dimmock Chair in Professional Learning and Leadership at the University of Glasgow.

Clive has worked around the world and especially in  Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong working with governments and institutions exploring leadership in schools and how this impacts teaching and learning. He has also worked on and considered professional development for such leaders. At this event he shared with us the eight characteristics of high performing school leaders. He felt that it was really important that we stopped just focusing on leadership but shone a light on high performing leaders.

What I would like to share in this post is those eight characteristics. Importantly, he noted that high performing leaders have a whole range of  personal qualities, dispositions and attributes. They developed and honed these on the back of learning from practical experiences and events and applying this to their own learning and development. This 'practical wisdom' they developed over time from 'on the job' tacit knowledge and then applying this in new situations.

The eight characteristics were as follows:

1) Such high performing leaders develop professional learning communities and, importantly, these are networked. Within their establishments they develop collaborative learning communities around teaching and learning. They then connect and network these communities with similar ones in other establishments and thus increase their power and influence.

2) They anchor their staff and their actions in research. They have research engaged schools. They promote staff looking closely at their own practice and and being secure in the research and evidence that supports their practice in their classrooms.

3) They emphasise and put value on teacher quality through teacher care, nurturing and engagement. They put primacy on relationships within their establishments and understanding all their teachers holistically, so that they can better support them and work with them to develop their practice and improve performance.

4) They are acutely focused on teaching and learning and have this as core business. They recognise that it is through the development and improvement of teaching and learning  that they can bring about the improvements they seek for all their learners, including those lowest 20% and reducing the gap between them and the rest.

5) They harness viable patterns of shared or 'expansive leadership.' This is not distributed leadership in the gift or at the behest of the school leaders. But a true recognition of, and promotion of true leadership qualities in all staff. They also recognise that all staff can lead.

6) They think and operate in a connected way. They see the connections in everything they, and their schools, do. They seek out and make visible these connections within the work of their establishments and the wider education systems.

7) They have very strong values based around equity and meritocracy. They want the very best learning and teaching for all their pupils and they accept that part of that responsibility is to identify and promote talent, both in their staff and their pupils.

8) They have great cross-cultural sensitivity and aim to equip their schools and their staff to be best prepared to offer the same level of opportunity to all in their schools. They are alert to particular problems  and issues those from different cultures may experience and they work to ameliorate these.

So these were Clive's eight characteristics of  highly effect school leaders. He did expand further on each of these but in this post I just wished to share the headline messages. For each one he also identified the risks associated. I must admit all of this was music to my ears, as anyone who has read any of my previous posts may understand.

The big question that Clive and others now are struggling with is, how do we provide high quality professional development for leaders and aspiring leaders that will develop such characteristics? Equally, can all of these be developed in anyone or are some of them intrinsic and come from within certain individuals?

What do you think?

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