What school drop-off taught me about servant leadership

I have learned, I hope, much from watching those whose leadership is a lived reality.

Some of the most important lessons I’ve learned on leadership were through working with principals and business managers when I headed the Association of Independent Schools of the ACT in Canberra some years back.

I’ve previously blogged on the importance of ‘clean shoes’ – and a further reflection on ‘we’ – not ‘me’ from my time in that role.

And so it was with Paul Browning, who is now heading a school in Brisbane, but was then at a school in Canberra.

Paul was very much about servant leadership – and his observation of how he did this day in, day out, formed a significant positive influence on how I try and head my teams. His blog on Compelling Leadership is a good read:

The key ingredient to a positive culture in a school or, for that matter, any organisation in the education or corporate spheres, is trust.

In effect, Paul stood out the front of his school, with his senior staff each morning. The kids saw him as they got dropped off, he had the opportunity to greet them and say good morning. But so too did his parents (in independent schools the key funders) – each day.

Seems simple, doesn’t it? And yet in how many workplaces is that values-actioned leadership missing, and how much do people miss out because of poor leadership?

Paul and his team walked the walk by being present where and for who it mattered. Never did I recall him doing wider education sector events like breakfasts – his focus was his school, his students, and the parents who he ultimately worked for.

He led by example, and the school grew, and prospered in a very tough education ‘market’ where parental choice abounded.

No sh*t leadership indeed.

It’s a simple thing, being there for those who matter. And it was an attitude that was not confined to Paul or his senior staff. I recall vividly being at an education sector function where the Year 4 ‘Men’s Choir’ performed – two teachers encouraging their boys to get out in public and sing (actually they just gleefully singishly yelled and stomped AC/DC and other classic hits and I’m not sure if the kids or their teachers were having more fun!).

You set the tone.

My time in education taught me that leadership comes in many forms, but it’s always easy to see, and that leaders like Paul lead from within, asking of those they lead only what they would ask of themselves.

Please. Thank you. What can I do for you. Servant leadership. Thanks Paul – and may the Year 4 men always sing loud and proud!


Graphic courtesy http://compellingleadership.com.au/ 

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