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The art of leadership: From biscuits to bravery

08 May 2018

by Annie Grant

In the fifth session of Camden’s 2017/18 Middle Leaders Programme, facilitator Janet Wallace picked up from the last session by asking the group to think a little more about motivating teams. She introduced three models:

  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs
  • David McClelland’s human motivation theory, and
  • Kolb’s experiential learning theory.

After thinking about their own personal motivators, over coffee, delegates worked in groups to explore how far these theories could help them to understand what might motivate their own team members. A few disappointed comments about the lack of biscuits provided on this particular course, focused the group’s attention straight away on the base of Maslow’s triangle which looks at basic biological and physiological need, including air, drink, shelter and …food.
The session then moved on to the main business of the day – dealing with difficult issues. It was easy for the group to generate a long list of the challenges that leaders face every day in schools, and everyone agreed that the most difficult of these to deal with involved colleagues. As someone once said, ‘the staff are the most difficult class in the school’, and most delegates admitted that they had previously put off, or were now avoiding, having important conversations about difficult issues.

Using a 5C model of intelligent leadership, Janet honed in on one of the ‘Cs’, confronting and asked the group to look at Susan Scott’s seven principles of fierce (robust) conversations, and to consider how these might help them to summon up the courage to hold the difficult conversations that were bothering them. But first, the group had to work out what Scott’s principles meant in plain English!

After deciding on the action they needed to take, delegates looked at the range of reactions that they might expect from those they had confronted, and how they should respond. Possible reactions ranged from tears and anger, to defensiveness and denial.

Finally, working in coaching triads, delegates talked through the difficult situations they faced and the action they needed to take. Many left at the end of the afternoon with the courage they needed to speak to colleagues on their return to school, and confront areas of concern.

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