Mrs. Nilufer Chavan, Principal Director, Wisdom High International School, Cambridge, Govardhan, Nashik, Maharashtra
Leading through complexity requires working together to draw on the collective wisdom of the group to find solutions to the challenges presented. A collective approach to leadership is essential for the sustainability and well-being of leaders, teachers, schools and the broader education system.Mrs. Nilufer Chavan
Effective leaders, like effective teachers, adjust and draw on a range of skills and approaches depending on the context. A typical school day requires leaders to move from the authority to navigating through a range of roles as each demand arises, such as that of a teammate, coach or therapist. The ability to shift and adjust leadership approaches based on what is needed is the key to being an effective leader.
The COVID-19 pandemic is unlikely to be the last crisis we will face in our lifetime, and it’s not the first time that school leaders have been called upon to lead through tough times. Challenges faced by school leaders have ranged from rebuilding after environmental disasters to supporting communities through economic, social and emotional devastation. During these times, we, at Wisdom High International School have provided clarity and directions, built resilience and instilled hope while remaining focused on the best possible outcomes for our students and school community.
Two messages stand out in the research on effective leadership in times of uncertainty – having the right tools for the task and the importance of context.
We as leaders have various tools available. With practice, we can learn how to use each tool, and become aware of the best approach to draw on in a particular situation. The more familiar we are with different approaches, styles and skills; the more sophisticated we become in using them.
Key school leadership practices adopted at Wisdom High International School:
- We had to broaden our perspective for a better understanding, the bigger picture and accurately assessing the situation.
- We identified the underlying adaptive challenges faced by the organization.
- We were focused on the task at hand.
- We gave work back to the people, guided and empowered teams to come up with creative and innovative solutions and within no time adapted to the new normal.
Every crisis is different – while some have acute effects, others may be experienced over a longer period. The well-being of school leaders, their teaching staff as well as students and communities is critical across all phases of a crisis. There’s a reason why the crew on a plane will ask you to fit your own mask before attending to others. To take care of others, it’s important to expend energy inwards as well. Engaging in practices that gives us energy lowered our stress and contributed to our well-being.
A sense of connectedness and belonging is the key to well-being. School leaders play a critical role in building a positive learning environment where the whole school community feels included, connected, safe and respected.
Effective leaders work with their staff so that the school has an understanding of what trauma is and how to recognize possible signs of it. This is the key to a continual well-being and support for others through a crisis. Extraordinary times present many challenges, but they also afford opportunities for learning and growth.