Complexity in school leadership #1


Complexity in school leadership #1

26 Mar ’17 Teaching 0

I am cautiously, heading back down the rabbit hole. I was invited to take part in an experimental leadership course, hosted by Canon Park Teaching Alliance, in conjunction with the University of Hertfordshire Business School.


Six participants come together to engage with ‘Encountering Complexity in School Leadership.’

Sessions are stimulated by a 45 minute presentation from a leading thinker in organisational complexity, leaving time for 45 minutes of discussion about the issues in a school leadership context.

In the second session colleague participants will take turns in sharing with the group a reflective narrative about an ongoing ‘wicked problem’. Following this all participants will wrestle with the complexity of the situation in light of the theories discussed in the first session.

The programme is an experiential opportunity for more practised managers and leaders to reflect on their daily practice of trying to get things done with other people. It does not involve learning more ‘tools and techniques’ of leadership and management.

I gratefully accepted.

# Day 1

The first of six meetings was led by Professor Chris Mowles. Chris outlined a challenge to commonly held views of leadership. Preferring a narrative of “iterated communicative interaction between people in which there emerge patterns of power relations and ideology that no one can plan, intend or control.” That we would be better off “exploring day to day interactions between people in the work place as a way of inquiring into management practice.”

I remember numerous common sense challenges, to commonly held management conventions. For example, many organisations emphasise teamwork, yet managed, developed and assessed employees as autonomous individuals. Most organisation promote alignment, avoiding conversations on topics conflict and power struggles are to be avoided or ignored. Chris noted that the only time your heart beats in perfect rhythm, is the moments leading up to a heart attack.

These are not my exact recollections. Regrettably, I did not write up my experiences or distil my reflections from Day 1. Swiftly the hubbub of working and personal life took precedent and I lost most of that first session other than I had planned to make more effort to “notice” the interplay of professional relationships around me and that I remembered interpreting what I thought that Chris was proposing. That we needed to be “comfortable with being uncomfortable.” Rather refreshed memories with content from his blog.

The second session was discursive. I remember thinking it benefitted from leaders from middle-headteacher and from expert facilitation.  If I am honest, I could not remember the detail.

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