28 Mar 2019 | by Jo Marchant

Last year I had the privilege of listening to American leadership guru, John C Maxwell, speak at a leadership conference at the Royal Albert Hall. One of the things he said was that the highest calling of any leader is to help other leaders reach their potential. Having given up 2 years of my life between 2016-2018 to complete a Master’s degree in Leadership, I consider myself to be reasonably well informed on the subject but John’s comment made me reflect on this particular aspect of leadership.

 One thing I’ve learnt is that everyone has the capacity to be a leader, irrespective of their job title. I see leadership qualities in different members of my team every day but if you asked them if they viewed themselves as leaders, they’d invariably say no. So, I see it as part of my job to empower them to recognise themselves as the leaders that they are and to further develop their competencies. This is one of the things that motivates me about my role, this opportunity I have to develop and encourage others to be the best that they can be. I don’t want to be the type of leader who keeps all the knowledge to themselves. I want to the type of leader who shares knowledge and empowers others to be self-reliant.

I remember my first management role some 20 years ago. I was Sales Office Manager of a team of 3 and every time I asked one of them how my predecessor had done something they replied, “We don’t know, Pauline used to do that.” That regular response was frustrating for me but how limiting it must have been for them. 

I’d far rather leave a position knowing I’d equipped my team to the best of my ability and the best of theirs. A great legacy for me would be that they didn’t need me anymore because I’d taught them all I knew.

 One of the things our profession suffers from is a lack of recognition of the contribution that business management makes to the successful running of a school. So, I make sure that I recognise and acknowledge the contribution that my team makes even if other members of staff don’t. I invest time training them to expand their skills base and when they’re ready, I encourage them to take decisions without running them all past me first. So, you’re probably thinking that’s a bit risky. Well not if you’ve got your ethics and team culture right. 

 I start developing a team by making my expectations clear and the reasons behind those expectations. Dealing with the management of public money, it’s important to ensure team members are aware of the ethical standards to which they must work. This takes time for a team to learn but by consistently applying the same ethical standards in your decision making, eventually this becomes the culture of the team. I can remember changing roles some time ago from one where I had embedded an ethical culture to one where the culture was somewhat different. That’s when I realised that your actions, whatever they are, start to become the norm after a while so you need to ensure you’re taking the right actions because your team are watching you and learning from you.

 So, reflect for a minute.  How can you develop the members of your team?  What can you do personally to empower them? You may already be putting up that barrier of, “I haven’t got the time.” Well, make the time because empowering others frees you up to do other things. It makes your day more rewarding as you watch how individuals develop and how their confidence grows. Developing others may mean encouraging someone to do a work-related qualification and then offering to be their mentor. Or it may mean spending half an hour training someone on how to use a software package. Or is may be simply taking the time to explain the rationale behind a decision that you’ve made so that they understand what to do next time.

 When was the last time you helped to develop someone? What’s your leadership legacy going to be?