Leadership in uncertain times

How do we ensure effective resilient leadership in challenging times?
Ilia Lindsay, Registered Psychologist, Komodo Psychology Lead
19/4/2023
2023/04/26

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Leadership through uncertain times 

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In times of uncertainty, leadership teams in schools face unique challenges. Whether it be a pandemic, a natural disaster, or another unexpected event, leaders must navigate through uncharted waters whilst still ensuring the safety and ongoing growth and development of their students, staff, and community. As we move into a post-pandemic era, we cannot deny the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the disruption of learning and education worldwide as well as the yet-to-be-quantified impact on child and adolescent development. All that is certain is that we are still in a time of uncertainty. 

During times of uncertainty, strong leadership teams are crucial for maintaining a sense of direction and stability not only for staff and colleagues but for students and the wider school communitySo, how do we lead in uncertain times?

Effective Communication

Clear and consistent communication is key during times of uncertainty. Leaders must ensure that all members of the school community are kept informed of any changes or updates. This includes not only staff and students but also parents and the wider school community. Communication should be transparent, empathetic, and timely, using various channels such as technology, face-to-face and school community events. By doing this, leaders can build trust and maintain a positive relationship with everyone in their school community. Effective communication also establishes grounds for collaboration and creativity as you engage and communicate with the school community and learn more about how to enhance the strengths and resources in your community. 

Collaboration

Collaboration is essential during times of uncertainty. Leaders must work together to share ideas, identify challenges, and develop solutions. A strong leadership team can provide a variety of perspectives and expertise that benefits their school. When there is a cohesive and collaborative leadership team we see an environment that fosters more informed decision-making. Whilst considering collaboration we also need to think more broadly of collaboration with other staff, students, and parents. Collaboration can help ensure that everyone feels heard and valued, and that decisions are made with the best interests of the entire school community in mind. 

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Adaptive Leadership

Adaptive leadership is a difficult yet critical skill that senior leadership teams need to demonstrate during uncertain times. This type of leadership involves a willingness and acceptance of when there is a need to adapt and make changes. In the past few years we have seen this in the adoption of teaching from physical to virtual classrooms. Genuine adaptive leaders must be willing to experiment and take risks to find solutions to new challenges. They also need to be able to make quick decisions and adjust their strategies as needed. Adaptive leaders are not afraid to try new approaches and will empower their staff to do the same. When we are open to change and adaptation we see school communities moving through uncertain times with minimal disruption and/or distress.  

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Focus on Wellbeing

We know from research that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing and, we know that even prior to the pandemic there was consistent reporting of student wellbeing and mental health decline. Leaders need to prioritize the wellbeing of their staff and students during these uncertain times. It is important to remember that this doesn’t mean becoming a personal counselor for each member of the school. Instead, this is about creating a positive work and learning environment that facilitates and encourages wellbeing and self care.

This can include weaving visible wellbeing strategies and activities for staff and students into the school day and making the wellbeing curriculum as important as the academic curriculum. It is important for leaders to also focus on their own wellbeing. As we navigate and lead through uncertain times, it's natural to feel anxious and overwhelmed. However, when leaders prioritize their own wellbeing they become better equipped to provide emotional support to their staff, students and wider community. Remember, we cannot pour from an empty cup. If you would like to know more about how to support your school wellbeing strategy and initiatives click here to book a call with one of the Komodo team. 

Senior leadership teams play a critical role in navigating uncertain times in education. We can all acknowledge that this is not an easy job to take on. It requires courage, resilience, and adaptation. By focusing on effective communication, collaboration, adaptive leadership, and wellbeing, leadership teams can support their staff and students through any challenging times. It is essential to remember that whilst uncertainty can be a challenge, it can also be an opportunity for growth and development. With strong leadership, we can navigate uncertainty and come out the other side with more creative ideas, a renewed resilience and more prepared and equipped to face future challenges. 

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References 

Chisholm-Burns, M. A., Brandon, H. H., & Spivey, C. A. (2021). Leadership lessons from administrators, faculty, and students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning, 13(10), 1306-1311.

Daniëls, E., Hondeghem, A., & Dochy, F. (2019). A review on leadership and leadership development in educational settings. Educational research review, 27, 110-125.

Fernandez, A. A., & Shaw, G. P. (2020). Academic leadership in a time of crisis: The Coronavirus and COVID‐19. Journal of leadership Studies, 14(1), 39-45.

Kalkan, Ü., Altınay Aksal, F., Altınay Gazi, Z., Atasoy, R., & Dağlı, G. (2020). The relationship between school administrators’ leadership styles, school culture, and organizational image. Sage Open, 10(1), 2158244020902081.

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