24 November 2015

I’ve been exercised this week in my work with school leaders by Jim Collins’ insights into Good to Great leadership. Collins explores the difference between good, what he calls Level 4 leadership, and great, what he describes as level 5 leadership. He suggest Level 5 leaders are not only responsible for taking the success of the organisation to a completely different level, they also create a self-sustaining legacy which means that the organisation continues to thrive when they leave and someone else occupies their role. He comes up with a really simple formula to describe Level 5 leadership;

                      HUMILITY         +          WILL           =            LEVEL 5 LEADERSHIP

He also suggests that when things go well Level 5 leaders look out for the window and reflect upon and celebrate the great contributions other people have made to making that possible. When thing go badly they look in the mirror and reflect upon their own contribution to that situation and what they are going to do differently in the future. Perhaps the most interesting part of his think ingredients is at the very end of the book when he asks the question; Can anyone become a Level 5 leader? And his answer is fascinating, most of us can but for some it via too late!! He suggests that for some being over proud of their position and too sure of their ways of working make it hard for people to truly commit to their vision. For others the people in the organisation know they don’t have the will to tackle the hard challenges the organisation faces. Andfor those for whom it is not too late  he suggests they start practicing that combination of humility and will.

There’s a health warning in extrapolating Collins’ work into education, his measure of success when looking at good to great organisations was consistently adding shareholder value over a sustained period of years! However what he does enable us to think about is how, in a climate of high stakes testing and intense accountability, great leadership can create the context for teachers to thrive. How that combination of humility and will can create a climate where great things happen in classrooms because teachers walk the extra mile for children because their work is both valued and fulfilling.