John F. Kennedy was a great leader, with an arsenal full of motivating speeches that inspired a nation when he was President and continue to inspire us today, years after his death. One distinctive Kennedy quote that especially resonates with us was one taken from his final, undelivered speech, intended for that fatal day in Dallas:
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”.
The meaning behind the quote is profound - a leader cannot lead without knowledge and a desire to learn, and must continue learning in order to maintain a position of leadership.
As educators we know the importance of continuous learning, we understand that our students are constantly learning either through lessons, interactions with peers or time spent online etc. We also understand how this is the same for us too; our students and peers teach us on daily basis and headlines and articles educate us on the world. As well as this, we also understand how difficult it is to make time for learning, especially when we are in a position of leadership. Our time is usually consumed by matters more pressing than our own personal development, such as improving wellbeing and school culture, preparing for the next inspection or ensuring that all our team is aligned and on track with our SIP objectives.
It’s easy when we’re in a position of leadership to feel as though we’re already accomplished and are no longer in as much need for additional learning, that our staff are more deserving of CPD or we simply don’t have the time. Therefore this quote, intended from someone who reached the ultimate position in leadership, serves as a reminder that regardless of our leadership position - in order to do that well we need to continue our lifelong learning. We’ve outlined some of the ways in which you can continue learning within your role as a school leader, to help you continue being the best leader you can be:
It’s a must that you make time for your own personal CPD - it may seem difficult enough trying to find time for your staff to partake in their own professional development, but leading by example will help others to realise how important it is. Setting time aside for you to improve, learn and develop may seem selfish to you when in reality the benefits of such learning is in fact selfless. New skills acquired mean you’re not only able to lead your team and school more effectively, but you are then able to pass on knowledge learnt to your staff and help them to develop.
Whether it’s self-evaluation or peer-evaluation, the feedback you get when either yourself or a colleague is being honest can be the most beneficial. When we believe that we’re doing our best and everything is going as well as it should, it makes the idea of feedback irrelevant. However, that being said - there is always room for improvement, and as a leader, our views and opinions can be starkly different to that of our staff’s. Take time to assess yourself, ask for feedback from colleagues and encourage constructive criticism so you can learn from your mistakes and your peers.
Education is such a fast paced industry as it’s heavily influenced by a society which is constantly developing in terms of culture, technology and views. We may feel, as experienced teachers turned leaders, we’ve got our finger on the pulse of education when in actual fact, some of your younger or less experienced staff may be more in tune with newer processes or edtech solutions. Listening to our staff at all levels, communicating with them and working alongside them will provide us with invaluable lessons that can help us to connect better with our staff and help us to run our school more effectively.
We are constantly on a journey of improvement when we’re working in schools, but it’s important to remember that we too need improvement, and there’s always room for it. In order to lead your school successfully, you need to continue your learnings in order to be the best role model, motivator and inspiration for your school and we can achieve this through remembering the words of JFK.