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Leading Through Others

The difference between LEADERSHIP  and MANAGEMENT is an age old debate. Often leadership is presented as the ‘sexy’ part. Creating a vision, setting direction and inspiring others can be seen as more exciting and edgy than management. Often the management aspects can be seen as maintaining a sense of order and stability.

However, my favourite definition of the difference between leadership and management is that PEOPLE need leadership, everything else needs to be managed. Both aspects are vital. People need clarity, focus, direction, inspiration and support. Resources, timetables, budgets, procedures, facilities and finances all need to be effectively managed if the school is going to operate like a well-oiled machine.

The BIGGER the school the more important that it is that school leaders lead THROUGH others. Schools are complex places and operating in challenging times. To have impact and influence, individual leaders can’t do all of the work themselves.

In 2021 it is essential that school leaders put in place processes to ensure that leaders lead through others. Regular line management meetings that ensure that the work of middle leaders is aligned, contributing to the strategic direction of the school and are a good use of people’s time are an important component of a school that operates smoothly.

One-on-one line management meetings need to be regular, sharp and focused. These meetings should provide support and guidance to the middle leader in making good decisions that are aligned with the strategic direction of the school. The frequency of the meetings will depend on the roles and the context. In some situations they may be daily or twice weekly (eg Principal and Deputy Principal). Where in other contexts and roles it may be fortnightly or once or twice per term (eg Deputy Principal and Head of Faculty or Principal and Head of Special Education Services). This will vary according to the context, the roles, responsibilities and the expectations.

No matter what the context or how frequent the line manager meetings are, it is vital that the meetings are sharp, efficient and focused. Time is a precious commodity.

I’d recommend trialing the following suggested framework and structure to keep line management meetings to a tight 30 minute schedule.

2 minutes        Revisit the outcomes from the previous meeting to ensure all were achieved
3 minutes        FYIs – a quick ‘heads up’ about what is happening in the area that the line manager should be aware of
15 minutes      Deep Dives or Project Feedback – discussing and problem solving together the current challenges being faced or plan the next steps in making progress in the area of responsibility. This is an opportunity for the middle leader to seek support and guidance from their line manager.
5 minutes        Quick questions for each other – this is an opportunity to get on the same page with operational issues and seek clarity for both parties.
3 minutes        Review and agree the priorities for the next month
2 minutes        Summarise and note the agreed commitments by both parties

Rather than micro-managing the middle leader, this framework is designed to provide support and guidance as well as ensuring that their work is aligned with the strategic direction of the school.

To set up for success in 2021 I’d highly recommend setting up your calendar of meetings now and trialing the 30 minute meeting framework.