Invitational Leadership at a Time of High Accountability
We are living in an age when, as educators, we are increasingly and understandably held to account for the quality of education that we provide and for how we use public money. I have been reflecting on what kind of leadership is most needed at a time when accountability, often as measured by test results, is so strong. I am increasingly of the view that what is needed most of all is invitational leadership.
Great invitational leaders do three things very powerfully:
- They invite you to be part of achieving a compelling vision. They have a story to tell; an exciting journey to communicate and they invite others to be part of it. When we find ourselves being led by an invitational leader, we know it is going to be challenging and scary but we also know it is going to be fulfilling and worthwhile. No invitational leader in a school is going to say, “My vision is for 100 per cent of students to pass the standardized test, will you join me on this exciting adventure?” They are going to paint an attractive picture of what the school is going to be like, how it is going to improve the learning and life chances of the children, and (of course) as part of that, they are going to make sure that they hit or exceed the accountability expectations. Invitational leaders recognize that many groups – members of staff, children and young people, parents, the community – have a stake in their school and they invite them into the development of the collective vision. So are we absolutely clear about the education vision for our school? How do we take the external accountability expectations and create, collaboratively, a vision for the school that is enriching, powerful and compelling? Invitational leaders embrace external accountability and then they enhance it and shape it to meet the needs of their local context.
- Invitational leaders welcome external and internal challenge. Invitational leaders are strong and self-confident enough to invite scrutiny and they are open to asking for help from others. They don’t wait to be judged just by external accountability. Instead, they get on the front foot. They encourage challenging feedback. The last thing they want is complacency, introspection or isolation. Are we genuine about opening up some of the complex challenges that we face and welcoming advice? Invitational leaders engage in peer review and prefer to develop their own robust procedures for challenging themselves, rather than simply relying on external accountability systems.
“We help apparently ordinary people to do extraordinary things.”
- Invitational leaders grow capacity, develop trust and create a sense of collective accountability. They engage with others and value the contribution of others. They build collective capacity and shared ownership. What distinguishes high performing schools from less effective schools? Schools that punch above their weight, even in the most challenging of circumstances, are likely to have an unusually positive collective mindset. This does not happen by chance. It depends heavily upon invitational leadership.
As leaders, we know that many of the important things are not directly connected with the external accountability systems. So we need to be leaders who embrace the external accountability systems but are not dominated or overwhelmed by them. Instead, we invite those we work with to be part of an exciting journey. We build collective accountability to ensure that the schools we lead are focused on doing the right things for the students. We build organizations that have soul and which create energy and commitment. We help apparently ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
This post was written by Steve Munby for LearnTeachLead.
See more resources by Steve Munby here.
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