Bowling Uphill in the Wind!
Uplifting Leadership – Andy Hargreaves and Alan Boyle
Tuesday 25th November 2014 saw The Scottish College for Leadership in partnership with the Virtual Staff College Scotland present Andy Hargreaves leading a workshop on Uplifting Leadership at Murrayfield Stadium. The event included Alan Boyle who co-authored the book (along with AlmaHarris) and each delegate received not only a copy of the book but also a workbook of activities.Born and raised in Accrington, Andy started his teaching and lecturing career in England, eventuallybecoming professor of education at Boston College. Ranked among the top 12 most influential educators in the United States, Andy has written over 25 books on leadership and change which have been translated into many different languages.
The interactive workshop, based on research of 18 organisations and systems in business, sports and public education, allowed participants the opportunity to work individually and in small groups to connect the key ideas to their own practice.An auspicious occasion, the first event of its kind, we were told immediately that our views would be challenged, that we would be challenged to change and improve, because schools are not doing well enough; well enough in closing the gap, supporting the most vulnerable or reducing youth unemployment.
Next the secret goal of the book of the book was shared – a better understanding of leadership space so that we might understand how education fits in to the world of business because, ‘Losing is the new Winning!’ A chuckle from the audience led to Andy praising us for our ability as a nation in achieving a sense of who we are despite our loss. We were reassured that you need to know who you are to achieve and then asked to consider which of these challenges appealed to us most:
1. Taking opportunities others have missed.
2. Moving towards resistance.
3. Turning weaknesses into triumphs.
4. Changing something that is succeeding.
5. Disciplined innovation – getting left and right brainers together.
‘Only psychopaths are unafraid!’ Moving towards resistance despite the fear we all feel at a certain level was highlighted as an exciting path to follow, which underpinned the drive of many successful leaders. At this point we were asked to consider our choices and then share with partners and then our group. Through sharing and the examples given we were challenged to think about our own styles of leadership as well as what we ultimately wanted to achieve, ‘the dream’ as Andy defined it.
The examples from industry and education brought to life the success of others. 5176 prototypes before Dyson produced their first vacuum cleaner and the removal of all standardised tests in Singapore to one at age 11 examples to make us think. But ultimately the questions we are all asking ourselves right now -How do we do better than we used to? How do we turn failure into success? How do we create something out of nothing? How do a lot with a little? The research of 15 organisations using data from 3 sectors, 8 countries, 4 continents and 200 interviews was distilled into the following:
6 Uplifting Forces
1. Dreaming with Determination.
2. Creativity and Counter-Flow.
3. Collaborating with Competition.
4. Pushing and Pulling.
5. Measuring with Meaning.
6. Sustainable Success.
But before we reached these we had to consider how we uplifted ourselves and others, as well as the ‘downers’ which faced us all and how we could avoid them. ‘Leading the right things, for the right reasons, in the right ways’, an inspirational call to us all. Asked to consider what gave us our ‘lift’ and what our ‘dream’ was; staff teams were able to engage in some really effective sharing of ideas and planning at some tables. ‘Bowling uphill in the wind!’ was used to help us consider the lift we felt in our own settings when moving towards resistance. ‘Co-opetition’ a concept some grappled with but exemplified in the investment in cricket in Pakistan and Dogfish Head beer, both examples which highlighted that competition was essential for success. Working for a higher purpose, increasing the profile of all involved and stimulating our own practice, a model which many embrace already, and which we were told could benefit us all.
The most challenging idea for me, Give away your best ideas so you will keep creating new ones?One to reflect on I think. However, use of data – positives and negatives- is something we are all grappling with. With the introduction of Insight we are now all engaged in data discussion whatever our thoughts. Andy asked to consider the use of data in our personal lives as well as in the workplace. The challenge for many in the audience may have been being told that data should not be used to set targets. But what did strike a chord were the statements that data would only improve performance if we measured what we valued, it was accurate and fair and just in time rather than after the fact. So, back to our discussions about Insight.Uplifting Leadership – leaving the event we had been challenged to think, challenged to work together and left to plan how this model could be utilised to help us to make our dreams for our schools come true. And that might be the crux for many of us, how we are able to take this back into our educational establishments, share with our teams and plan together how to be uplifting leaders. But as Andy highlighted,‘You don’t need to be the best. If your aim is to be the best you probably won’t be!’
But hopefully we can be better, better at closing the gap, supporting the most vulnerable and reducing youth unemployment.