BLOG: My thoughts on leadership
19 September 2012
’10 Ambassador, Allan Arthur, shares his thoughts on Leadership after completing two years on the Leadership Development Programme in Yorkshire.
I cannot easily summarise how I felt on leaving my school (and teaching) at the end of my second year this summer. I was relieved but also deflated, proud of the things I had achieved and yet disappointed that I hadn’t done even more during my two years. I looked forward to new challenges on the diverse graduate scheme I had secured with Morrisons from September, but however saturated I was at the end of a long year the sudden realisation that I wasn’t going to be in the classroom made me pensive. Therefore, when I was asked to lead a two-hour session on Leadership at Samuel Lister Academy in Bradford to forty 6th formers as part of their Year 13 induction, I jumped at the chance, and I was very grateful that Morrisons were supportive in giving me time off in my very first week with the company.
We analysed and debated different public leaders: from teachers to Prime Ministers; cultural icons (Mick Jagger, using the video of Start Me Up) to the Sergeant Major (using Full Metal Jacket); sport team captains (John Terry, Steven Gerrard and Andrew Strauss) to Steve Jobs. After debating why and how these different characters led people, I wanted the pupils to begin considering leaders in their own lives. Could they identify and assess the different leadership styles of leaders in their own communities? How might different styles be appropriate for different jobs, people, or situations? They put these ideas into practice through ‘creating a leader’, by adding leadership characteristics to a base figure. For example, what characteristics do a young female teacher or team captain need in order to be an effective leader?
I next added a ‘situation’ to see if they would add any further leadership traits to their characters. Sweet, caring young female teachers faced with ‘a pupil throwing a chair in the classroom’ became armed with resolve and authority. Tough, authoritative sports captains faced by ‘a teammate who been sent off and was blaming others’ matured into thoughtful mediators and good listeners. I felt that they were really beginning to grasp what it is to be an effective and responsible leader: to be flexible, a creative and thoughtful decision maker, a model example, and a good listener who develops people.
We identified and discussed how they are leaders already and what positions of responsibility they have now. The Academy has brought in vertical tutor groups for this year and the Y13 pupils are going to act as Assistant Tutors and mentors to younger pupils. A brilliant idea! As Universities and employers want to see people having taken on responsibility from an early stage, we did some short, medium and long-term target setting particularly related to this role as Assistant Tutors and mentor. The pupils seemed really energised by this and their ideas included: planning to lead a tutor group session a week, keeping an eye out for the incoming Y7s, and getting wayward Y10s and Y11s back on track for their GCSEs. I have no doubt that they will commit to these targets, and go beyond them.
We finished by recapping what the most important things for effective leadership are, and we created the useful quip that ‘leadership = listening not lecturing’. Having been a teacher I thought a final plug for my anonymous colleagues wouldn’t go amiss, and I implored the pupils to make sure they listen to their teachers who most of all want to help them do well! Having started the session by analysing famous leaders and social icons, continued by discussing communal leaders in their lives, and finally instigated some pupil self-assessment and target setting, I had wanted to gradually relate leadership to the pupils themselves. Most of all, I wanted them to understand the crucial message that you can only be an effective leader once you can effectively lead yourself. They are in control over putting themselves in the best possible position over Y13; in short, their future is down to them!