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Leadership in a time of crisis

Anyone who has done any educational leadership training will probably have come across the different types of leadership styles. During my NPQSL we had some sessions that touched on different styles of leadership and the effects of this global pandemic on international schools recently got me thinking about these leadership styles again.

I remember a discussion in one of my NPQSL sessions about coercive or authoritarian leadership styles and whether they were ever necessary. Generally the feeling was that, while they were bad and not generally recommended to use, they were what leaders should use in a crisis.

Well, international schools, and indeed all schools, have certainly never faced a crisis like this in living memory.

In fact, I can’t think of a worse time to bring in a coercive or authoritative leadership style.

In fact, I can’t think of a better time for school leaders to be actively understanding. Find out what the issues all your parents, students and teachers face. Build consensus, build flexibility to meet everyones needs. Don’t be driven by loud, complaining voices, until you find out if they are representative, and what the impacts of their demands might be on other stakeholders.

In fact, I can’t think of a better time to slow down, make time, pause and collect data. Communicate clearly. Listen and don’t talk back.

Having empathy is more than just saying you have empathy. You need to actually listen and not respond until you have something constructive to say and do in support.

Just when we need empathy, genuine understanding of the position all teachers and students and their families are in, or at least a real attempt at doing that, we should not be bringing down edicts and commands without consulting those who will be effected by them.

International schools, now more than ever, need to act with international mindedness. It’s never good enough to say this how things are done in this country, if you are an international school leader who wants to develop globally minded citizens.

Of course, as a school leader it is hard to be empathetic when your own needs are not being met and you aren’t safe, or you feel threatened by a situation. It requires honesty with yourself and your Team about where you are at. The temptation may be to just lay the law down, as it could seem to be the easiest thing to do. But now, more than ever, we need to talk.

Is a coercive leadership style ever justified? No. I really don’t think so. Not even in a crisis.

Please share your thoughts..

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