When their people know they exist by the actions they take,
Not so good when their subjects seek to acclaim them,
Worst when they despise them,
But of a good leader, who talks little and lets their actions speak,
When their work is done, their aim fulfilled,
Their people will say, “We did this ourselves”

From Lao-Tse, (Ancient Chinese Philosopher)

In the words of UNESCO’s Institute for

Lifelong Learning ...


It is relatively rare for a newly-appointed Head Teacher to have been promoted through the managerial ranks of the school that they have now been recruited to lead. So that whilst they may be familiar with the circumstances of their appointment, in the majority of cases they step into an environment of which they have little or no knowledge and embark on a voyage of discovery. However, the newcomer also has to be mindful that not only is their personal learning journey beginning but so is that of the school community, expecting change but with a wide spectrum of potential responses at the ready, varying from openness and anticipation to built-in resistance.

It is critical to the appointee’s success that they are confident in their understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their own personalities, management styles and dispositions as learners. Only then will they be capable of adopting a leadership style that will embrace the school community’s existing culture whilst preparing it to absorb change.

Every leader’s leadership and management style is different from the next and whilst each is a product of his or her past experience, there is much to be learned both from the decisiveness that will lead to learning from mistakes and from the camaraderie and moral support that comes from membership of a collaborative peer group. Indeed, the leader that is willing to learn, open to new ideas and themselves consultative will gain a great deal by building harmonious relationships throughout the wider school community. It is these ‘learning relationships’ that will enable the introduction of a new leadership philosophy, a dynamic and compelling vision for the future and avoid the stresses that frequently accompany change.

The Leader as Learner …

Whether newcomer to the top job or old hand, a 12-point ‘engagement index’ has assisted countless leaders in determining whether or not they are embracing the concerns and potential contributions of all of their stakeholders in their vision for the future. The key is simply to find out … hence the recommendation for the carrying out of two audits

The first means taking the newly forged vision in a summarised and simplified form to representatives of all sections of the wider stakeholder community. The purpose is to determine the differences between leadership preferences and the realities on the ground. Only then will it be possible to revise the vision to take account of need and expectation, engage stakeholders in its delivery and ensure that the challenges of change are met with understanding and resilience.

The second audit concerns communication. Poor and inconsistent communication is so often top of the list of the causes of stakeholder frustration and unrest. However, whilst it is important for the leader to get to grips with the root causes of such frustration, he or she will find, as time goes by, that the greater the frequency and quality of information, the more it fuels a hunger for more and prompt concerns that vital information is being denied. Use of the electronic and social media has dome much to resolve this but the leader should not be surprised if issues remain!

An explanation of each elements of the 12-point index is available in the DOWNLOAD


  • An Introduction to ELLI
    This is a brief in introduction to the Effective Lifelong Learning Inventory, known affectionately as ELLI. ELLI is the on-line instrument research-validated among 100,000 people, chiefly in schools, by the Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol. It identifies 7 basic and readily recognizable dimensions that underlie learning proficiency and the on-line instrument produces a simple spidergraph to express the learner’s responsiveness to learning at the moment that the on-line questionnaire is completed. However, ELLI is much more than that, is itself responsive to personal circumstance and learning environment, prompts the informed management of intervention, records change and is available throughout life to enable reflection, self-direction and the re-visiting of established habits and behaviors.
  • The 7 Dimensions of Learning Power and the Leader-Learner
    The leading identifiers of each of Learning Power’s 7 dimensions and the characteristics displayed at each of the positive and negative poles.
  • Learning Power: underlying habits and behaviors
    Strengths and weaknesses recorded against each of Learning Power’s 7 basic dimensions can be further distilled into a number of learning habits and dimensions. We uncover some of them here.