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Leadership is about Letting Go

Updated: Apr 9, 2022

My children start school next week. My 9 year old has had a very disrupted 2 years in education. My 5 year old has hardly been to school. On the one hand I'm anxious for them starting in a Spanish school when they have very little grasp of the language. On the other hand, having taught in London schools with up to 80% EAL, I know they will pick up the language incredibly quickly and will be interpreting things for us in no time. Much like I did for my parents when I was their age. We've got used to having them home though. They're funny & kind like their dad yet stubborn and bolshie like me. It's an entertaining combination. I'm going to feel bereft when they go to school. I know I will gain time, but I suspect I won't know what to do with myself and just feel like I'm waiting for them to come home. Letting go is difficult but necessary. What I loved about teaching was not trying to control & mold young people but encouraging them to develop their own opinions, feel confident to challenge and question, become independent and go in directions you didn't imagine for them and they didn't for themselves.

As a leader, it's difficult to let go. When you develop a project and put it out there, criticism of it can be demoralising & distressing especially when you have put your heart and soul into it. 

As a leader, I realised that one person coming up with an idea, developing it, and putting it out there was an ineffective way to manage change. So, I developed a democratic change leadership model. This involved a pilot programme, acquiring feedback, making adjustments, and courting further feedback before it was rolled out to the whole school. I would then continue to monitor and evaluate every term to see if it's still relevant, practical, being used consistently and if teachers feel there need to be any changes.

Sounds easy. But you are making yourself vulnerable. Putting yourself out there is very much like those dreams where you walk into Waitrose naked. Instinct tells you NOT to do this! Also, some people are not adept at giving feedback, which is weird as they are teachers! I've had emails that have been quite mean and cruel. I agreed with the flaws they pointed out but the nature of the wording was personal, attacking, and unnecessary, without giving any possible suggestions to improve.

I have a thin skin. I surprise myself sometimes with how thin my skin is. Yet, even though I knew I would get personal criticism I would ask for feedback because I knew the full launch of the project would be more successful as there is more likely to be buy-in from staff if their views are taken into account. Also, the changes that I'd made as a result of the feedback meant it was a more meaningful, practical project which would have a greater impact. My baby has grown and developed into a creation that I'd never initially thought of. 

So what am I rambling on about? I'm a bit of a control freak. But I know that my children will thrive from being exposed to the diverse input from their peers, teachers, and even other parents.  Letting go is difficult yet necessary for real change, growth, and impact to occur. If you love someone, set them free. 

Malarvilie is a leadership coach, trainer, and supervisor. Get in touch if you are interested in ILM accredited educational leadership courses, 1:1 or group/team coaching:

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