My leadership journey in education commenced in 2007 following a work placement in Guangzhou (China) where I was commissioned to work with the school leadership team in reviewing practices in place, introducing and implementing new approaches to early years and managing pupils with special educational needs. Leading and working successfully in collaboration with colleagues from a very different culture and with a work ethic that was very different from mine was a real challenge. It really encouraged me to reflect on my own leadership style, and also heightened my awareness of how developed my emotional intelligence was.
Once I had returned to England, I was determined to continue to work hard, study and aspire to be a great headteacher. My life and focus was always about ensuring that the pupils were consistently provided with the highest standards of education that they deserved, and that I became an outstanding leader. The net consequence of this was that I had no work-life balance. My time with family and friends was no longer a priority, and my health suffered.
Luckily, as part of my leadership training, I was allocated a professional coach to work with. This was the best thing that happened as it gave me a person outside of work that I could talk to in confidence and have 1:1 conversations on personal/professional challenges. I really appreciated the value and benefits of these sessions and highly recommend that all leaders invest in a coach. As a leader, when do you ever get time in your working life where you are given the space, and time to reflect, speak and be listened to without being interrupted or judged?
The most defining moment for me as a newly appointed leader, was when I successfully managed and led my team to achieving an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted outcome within 9 months of my first appointment as a headteacher. It was a great feeling to know that all that hard work and dedication had finally paid off, and that ‘WE’ as a team had worked together to achieve the very best outcomes for our children and I was now recognised as an ‘outstanding leader’. What I really learnt from this moment is that when a leader recognises and values every team members’ efforts and gives them ownership – a school can achieve their wildest dreams.
My leadership journey was not entirely a smooth one as I too experienced some challenges along the way. One of the challenges that I faced in my early stages of leadership was managing the constant workload. I very quickly learnt how to work on tasks that maximised my unique value-add by consistently applying the prioritisation matrix tool to help me prioritise the important tasks and delegate to my team. What I learnt from this is that delegating can make you more productive and empowers the people to whom you have given the work to.
The experiences and challenges I faced as a developing headteacher and leader are common to any leadership role, whether it’s as a middle or senior leader. It is this awareness, experiences and my passion to empower other leaders to achieve outstanding results and to enjoy balance, health and a great life in the process that ultimately led to the creation of Enhance Education Consultancy.