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Ideas about Leadership

Leadership ideas
Two of my favorite writers on leadership are John Adair and Jim Collins. Note, these are not writers on educational leadership but rather about leadership in any organisation. A very brief summary of each is set out here.
John Adair


He states that effective leaders must have:


1. Enthusiasm - try naming a leader without it!

2. Integrity - meaning what you say and sticking to values and truth - this quality makes people trust a leader

3. Toughness - demanding, with high standards, resilient, tenacious, respected (but not necessarily popular)

4. Fairness - impartial, treating people differently but equally

5. Warmth - heart as well as mind being engaged, caring for people

6. Humility - not arrogant, a listener, ego not big

7. Confidence - self confident and assured but not over-confident



Effective leadership must be:


1. Distributed

2. About ‘superteams’ not ‘superheads’

3. Learning-centred

4. Consistent and single-minded

5. Creative and adaptable

6. With clear direction

7. Use styles suited to the situation or person

Jim Collins

In moving from Good to Great (the title of the book), he states that the organisations studied that did become 'great' had or did the following


  • ‘Level 5 Leadership’ – has a paradoxical blend of humility and professional will. Although leadership does matter, believing ‘Leadership is the answer to everything’ is like ‘God is the answer to everything’ (the Dark Ages!). L5 Leaders credit other factors when things go well and take responsibility (rather than blaming external factors) when things go wrong.


  • First who...then what – L5 leaders “first got the right people on the bus, and then the right people in the right seats – and then figured out where to drive it”. The old adage “people are your most important asset” is wrong. They’re not. The right people are.


  • Confront the brutal facts (yet never lose faith) – confront the brutal facts of your current reality and maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end.


  • A culture of discipline – when you have disciplined people - you don’t need hierarchy, when you have disciplined thought, you don’t need bureaucracy, etc


  • The fly-wheel and the doom-loop – there is no single defining action, grand programme, killer innovation, lucky break or miracle moment. Rather, the process from good to great resembles pushing a giant heavy flywheel repeatedly until it build up a momentum of its own.


Conversely, being good is often being good enough and can be a barrier to becoming great/outstanding. The organisations that became great did not


  • Have larger than life celebrities as leaders

  • Have pay strongly linked to performance

  • Have a reliance on strategy alone

  • Only focus on what to do (they also focused on what not to do)

  • Succeed because of technology

  • Become great by merging

  • Pay too much attention to managing change, creating alignment, etc

  • Have a new tag line or big launch event

Various on Leadership

“All that we do is done with an eye to something else” – Aristotle


“Work smarter, not harder” - Jim Rohn


“Time is the scarcest resource and unless it can be managed, nothing else can be” - Peter Drucker


“If…you can keep your head when those about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you” – Kipling


“A good leader is not necessarily the most popular person in their organisation, but the best ones are liked because of their clarity and vision” - Alan Sugar


“If you have no critics, you’ll likely have no success” - Malcolm X


“A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader, a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves” - Eleanor Roosevelt


Various on change


Continuous change is, of course, inevitable not only in schools but in any successful organisation. It is the job of the leader to skilfully effect change for best impact.


“I question” - Leonardo da Vinci


“There is a natural opposition among people to anything they have not thought of themselves” - Barnes Wallis


“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek” - Barack Obama


“Have a bias toward action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away” - Indira Gandhi


“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty” - Winston Churchill

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