Last week I had the pleasure of presenting a keynote to the Australian Council for Educational Leaders National Conference in Sydney. The presentation was based, in part, on the edited book Future Alternatives for Educational Leadership.
In exploring what leadership looks like now, and what it might look like next, as the book does, I shared some unusual metaphors for leadership, from educational scholarship, that could help to move our thinking beyond normalised paradigms of leadership as largely male, white, and about the individual. These were:
- The Cheshire Cat (Netolicky, 2019) representing the deliberately visible-invisible leader who navigates fluidity of role, and intentionally provides others with what they need at any given time.
- The punk rock principal (Heffernan, 2019) as the leader who sees themselves as part of a band, and who is willing to consider and potentially resist compliances and expectations.
- Network leadership (Azorín, Harris, & Jones, 2021) in which leading is collective, networked, and a social practice.
- Leadership as a social movement (Rincón-Gallardo, 2021) in which leaders participate as a learners, craft strategy, forge collective commitment, shape the public narrative, and ignite others to action.
- Leading as salvaging (Grice, 2021) as a practice of hope and sustainability that involves collecting, saving, selecting, respecting the value of resources, and repurposing or returning to purpose.
- Wayfinding leadership (Netolicky & Golledge, 2021) in which leaders know and reflect on self, know and respond to their environment, navigate roadblocks, use instruments fit for purpose, and balance tensions by simultaneously applying systematisation and intuition, strategy and empathy.
The theme of the conference was ‘inspiring hope, leading our future’, and my takeaways for the audience were that we benefit from:
- A focus on leading as a practice for all, rather than the leader as a person or title.
- Knowing that context is queen, including knowing our people and honoring tradition while engaging in futures thinking.
- Applying reflexive practice by examining self and evaluating impact.
- Seeing ourselves, as educators and leaders, as collaborators rather than competitors, working together across stakeholder groups and systems.
- Redesigning for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Considering sustainable practices, for our schools, our staff, ourselves, and the planet.
- Creating and feeding the conditions for an ecosystem of high trust, high support, high challenge, and respectful disagreement.
- Empowering, building the capacity of, meaningfully inviting the voices of, and co-designing with others.
A core belief of my presentation, and of the conference, was the importance of humanity at the centre of our work as teachers and school leaders.
My slide deck is below.