Those who read my blog regularly will know that I think and write a lot about school leadership. I also read a great deal about leadership and am particularly intrigued by the idea of sustainable leadership. Last month, I spoke at a Pedagoo event about how to stay, survive and thrive in teaching and leadership by drawing on instruments of personal power:
I also did a condensed version of this talk in a Leadmeet at the #womened Unconference this Saturday.
But I will confess that I am personally still in need of a little help in ensuring that I can keep going in leadership into my fifties…..which start next August the 13th. More of that later.
I have noticed some well-being warning signs of late and as I approached the Scottish October holidays which started this week, I knew that I would need to take some time to stop and reflect.
One of the instruments of power mentioned in my talk and post above was James Hilton’s brilliant book “Leading From the Edge” which I reviewed back in August:
Imagine my delight, then, when, a couple of weeks ago, I received my copy of James’ latest book “Ten Traits of Resilience”.
In the book, James says that he is not superstitious, having lived in a number 13 house for many years. I have to confess that, having been born on the 13th, I’m also unfazed by that number, but that I do believe in serendipity and the power of the universe to give us things when we are in need.
The arrival of this book through the letterbox exemplifies the meeting of such a need.
James has skilfully identified the 10 balloons with which we keep our basket comfortably aloft as we navigate the terrain of school leadership and avoid either spiralling off into the ether, or crashing to the ground: A sense of purpose ; Optimism; Trust; Courage; Decisiveness; Asking for help ; A sense of fun; Curiosity; Taking care of yourself and Turning adversity into opportunity.
The book is a brilliant mix of advice based on James’ own extensive experience as a school leader, as well as ideas and guidance offered by other accomplished leaders such as Patrick Ottley-Connor, Viv Grant, Ross Morrison-McGill and Kim Johnson. In another serendipitous piece of timing, I met Pat in real life at the Unconference on Saturday (having known him virtually for some time) and so have been able to “hear” his voice while reading his words in the book over the last few days. If you can manage to find a way of meeting him at some point, I would strongly recommend it. He completely lives up to his fabulous reputation!
The huge power in this book comes from the fact that it does not just offer advice but it also makes you work and think around the ideas offered through practical activities and tasks that have to be completed as part of your engagement with the book. James has clearly put a lot of time and effort into devising these exercises and I would insist that, unless you commit to completing them, you will not gain the full benefit from the book. I would also suggest that you do them in pencil so that you can go back and update them as needed.
James has also selected quotes and pieces of wisdom from experts in leadership beyond education and these are peppered throughout the book to add seasoning and spice that activate our reflective tastebuds.
My two favourites are these:
“If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t, you will see obstacles” from Dr Wayne Dyer
“A sense of humour is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done” from Dwight D Eisenhower.
I have discovered over the years that I am a somewhat unusual combination of Eeyore and Tigger but that I am a better leader and human when I let myself laugh, bounce and use humour to combat some of my black dog (or grey donkey) ruminations. My lovely and hugely perceptive daughter recently pointed out to me that she has not seen as much of the relaxed and funny side of me lately and I know that I have some work to do on getting my sense of humour back.
The thing I love most about this book is that James writes in a style that is hugely readable yet backed up with evidence, science and research.
His honesty in relation to his own personal journey and challenges means that the reader instinctively feels a sense of connection and (number three on the list of crucial factors) trust in him and his wisdom.
If you want to stay in leadership and get the most from the best job in the world, read this book.
As James says: “You make a difference. Never forget that! You possess the ten traits of a successful school leader but we all need to give those balloons a little boost of inflation from time to time.”
The Ten Traits of Resilience by James Hilton is published by Bloomsbury.