How long have you been involved in education?
I guess I’ve been involved in education all my life! I left school after the 7th form and went straight to teachers college—that was in 1975!
What was your initial interest in education?
I spent the first ten years of teaching as an intermediate school teacher. I was basketball coach and curriculum leader of reading. I then started becoming interested in leadership and moved up the ranks to principalship. I spent seven years as principal of Richmond School (Christchurch), then seven as principal at Fendalton Open-air School—both fabulous learning; very different contexts.
What is your passion in education?
Helping grow leaders for the future. This is in all contexts, not just in education. I am passionate about building a firm base of ethical leadership; self leadership, and global leadership. I believe we have a lot to learn from cultures other than our own, from the neurosciences and from business.
You run Think Beyond. What does that organisation do?
Think Beyond focuses on challenging leaders to think for the future. We work internationally with development of leadership at all levels, facilitating learning programmes, speaking, writing and contributing through social media. Key words in the partnership are: collaboration, challenge, creation and congruency. We work with people who are excited about possibilities and want to grow themselves, their teams and their organisations. We try to bridge research with common sense and practical application!
You also run ALPinE, a web site for thought leaders to connect and air their views. How successful is this site?
ALPinE Leadership is focused on educational leaders who want to explore future possibilities for different approaches to leadership, and the whole concept of ‘school’ as we know it. It was developed from a sense of impatience with the speed of change and mindset that there are too many barriers in place to change. The site includes the opportunity to set up interest groups, and will be developed further with the help of contributors who join the site. Currently, a weekly guest blogger writes focusing on a real range of leadership ideas and experiences. We have also launched our first webinar series for educational leaders, attracting participants from NZ, Australia and Singapore. We will be offering a greater range of online resources to cater for those who wish to learn from each other, yet find travel problematic. There is a huge need for leadership growth opportunities, and so a range of offerings (including a yearlong programme, “The Journey”), are next steps.
You have two web sites, contribute to blogs, run workshops, mentor clients and do presentations here and overseas, on several boards, as well as all the connecting via social media. How do you keep up with all this? And, what drives you?
I don’t keep up with it! I let it wash over me and try to connect things together as much as possible. I have a real portfolio career and it is this that allows me to develop skills in a variety of setting. I enjoy the governance work for extending my analytical and thinking skills and to practice applying what I preach!
I am driven by an intense interest in learning new things and bringing ideas together to create something better than the sum of the parts. I also have plenty of personal goals to work on, and a commitment to support others in their attaining their goals.
Apart from all this, you have also been involved in voluntary work in India. Can you explain what that work involves, why you got involved, and any success stories?
I support the Rata Teacher Support Trust, and have volunteered in both Cape Town and India. This involves helping untrained teachers to teach and supporting leaders to grow skills and capabilities. I got involved because I knew others who were involved and I liked the fact that I could be part of a long-term project based on listening to the needs of the group and on building sustainability. The schools we work with support the underprivileged, the poor, the slum dwellers, the remote communities. The project in Cape Town finished last year, and there was a marked change in teacher practice at the end of this time. Sustaining the change is always difficult. My particular interest in being part of these projects is on listening to the people and learning from and with them in order to build some sustainability (rather than dependence).
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My husband says marrying him, and he may well be right. David is my rock and right-hand man and chief believer! When I finished my doctorate it was after the culmination of 25 years of part time academic study, while maintaining a fulltime job as teacher and principal. His support was vital!
Methods for learning and educating have changed gradually over the centuries, with more effort and change occurring within the last century. What do you see as being the greatest achievement?
Growing literacy levels for those who have not typically had a chance to be educated, especially in emerging countries such as China and India. The impact of the internet on changing ways in which students can collaborate and interact in ways that can provide positive outcomes for the planet.
Where do you see methods of educating need the most improvement?
Teachers listening more and letting the students do the learning. Letting go! Realising that there is not a one best model of education—there needs to be choice and multiple pathways to meet the diverse needs of students. Moving from a restrictive curriculum to a global one—looking outwards and less focused on measurement of minutae.
How do you see this happening?
Some real leadership from NZ Ministry of Education to employ leaders with a vision for growing an exceptional model of learning. A focused approach on developing adaptive leaders—future focused, embracing complexity, and innovating for the benefit of all students.
Are we doing it right here in New Zealand? Who leads the way?
No we are not doing it right from a systemic level. There are some amazingly positive things happening, and some real innovative practice. This is not rewarded or developed from a systems perspective. Those schools that are not achieving are not held accountable at an early enough stage.
It is difficult to compare countries because of contextual differences. I think we need to look at Eastern models with more interest, and move away from following the USA and UK. Australia has pockets of excellence, however, all systems look better from the outside—none is perfect, nor meets the needs of all.
How do you see typical education will be in the future?
Education in the future will be much more diverse. There will be a move to more charter and specialist schools, more home schooling, and more online opportunities. Many schools will become a hub for learning rather than a place attended from 9-3. Hours will be more flexible, and the boundaries between school, business, and home will become more blurred. The use of technologies will continue to have a profound affect on learning. If schools do not adjust to this they will continue to become increasingly irrelevant to students, who will learn in other places through other means.
You are clearly interested in leadership. What are the key ingredients you see for developing leadership skills in the modern age?
Leadership of self is absolutely foundational. You cannot lead others without first leading yourself, understanding yourself, and self-regulating. From this grows the ethical base that has always been important, and is increasingly so. From here, leaders need to grow the capabilities to lead others and to lead the organisation. Joan Dalton and I wrote the Leadership Learning Maps for the Australian Council for Educational Leaders. This framework of leads self, leads others, and leads the organisation is a good model to follow.
What are the styles of leadership and demands on leaders that are different from the conventional wisdom of a few years ago?
We have moved from a mechanistic view of leadership to a more ecological one. There is greater recognition that leadership is complex, so leaders must be able to meet adaptive challenges. This is recognition that there are not always answers, that there are many possibilities, and that working with cultural change is messy. Increasingly, too, there is a focus on developing as a networked leader. This is about looking outwards and influencing beyond your organisation locally, nationally, and globally.
How do you see this kind of leadership?
It demands mindfulness and reflective practice. More than ever it requires diverse forms of intelligence. One of these, cultural intelligence, will become a major focus in the next three years, as organisations and populations become much more diverse. Neuroleadership is another area that will see significant growth—the melding of neurosciences, leadership, and coaching.
Your web site and presentations show you clearly think technology has a part to play in leadership development. Where do you see technology fitting into the development of leadership and thought leadership?
Technology is a tool for communicating, collaborating, and growing new ideas. As a learner I use, for example, Web 2.0 tools to research trends and to grow ideas with others. Technologies continue to change rapidly and provide leaders more diverse ways of undertaking professional learning, undertaking global projects, and working just in time. Leaders will also need to develop their skills in focus and paying attention to what matters, otherwise the technology will overwhelm them.
I saw in one of your Slideshare slides one that intrigued me. It said: “Leadership is an influencing relationship”. Please explain what that means.
Leadership is about influencing rather than power. Influence is pulling people to a new future, rather than pushing them whether they resist or not. Influence is about people wanting to be part of the tribe (as Seth Godin describes it) because it connects to their heart as well as their head. Influence is about working with people and listening to understand before taking action. Power is a short-term solution that cannot be sustained over time.
Catastrophes provide ample opportunities for good leadership. The recent Canterbury earthquakes have provided such an opportunity. How do you think leadership in education has fared (the good, the bad, the ugly)?
Secondary schools have had the opportunity to break down barriers and work more closely together. This has helped people to rethink what they have been doing. It will be easy to revert to tradition unless schools, the Ministry of Education, and other key drivers proactively start imagining new possibilities. Technology, in particular Christchurch’s GSCN, has a real part to play in accelerating and embedding changes.
The danger is that the Eastern suburbs are left without support, and that they focus on survival of ‘their school’ rather than looking holistically at new possible models that meet the needs of students in the area.
We have a real opportunity to work together as a city to develop a model of education that uses strengths across the city. It will require some key people stepping up to lead and being prepared to leave egos and parochialness behind. That is Christchurch’s immediate challenge. It will be tough, yet so many possibilities exist….