"Why, why, why?!" is a common response from my friend and inspirational guru on all things to do with positive relationships and restorative practice, Marg Thorsborne, when she comments on any of my many posts on the crazy training and/or racing adventures I get up to. Her response does make me pause and think "why?" and this is a good thing.
I've decided to enter in the Tarawera Ultra Trail Run 100 miler to be held next February. It's what I'd call one of those big, hairy audacious goals which has a reasonably high chance of failure. As is often the case, these sorts of goals need to be made public in some way to increase the level of accountability. If I kept it to myself it could be easier to quietly give up on it when the going gets tough, as it inevitably will.
That's the nature of big, hairy audacious goals - the going will get tough, and to prepare for that inevitability you need some counters - one of which is putting it out there publicly. My apologies, therefore, to those who follow me on Facebook or Instagram as I will hold myself to account through posting on those platforms!
When I was thinking of entering I contacted Eugene from Dirt Church Radio (Trail running podcast). I'd got to know him through the podcast as well as him being a parent of an ex-student - he also paced me to a sub 4 hour Rotorua Marathon! I asked him because I know he had completed the 100 miler at Tarawera and I reckon he has a good understanding of my ability. His reply really made me sit up and think, "But the question is ... do you want to? It's a race where you really need to have your why nailed down."
Of course, I should have known all this. Like all education leaders I was familiar with Simon Sinek's work on the importance of starting with the 'why', and in the very early years of the development of Hobsonville Point Secondary School we were supported by Julia Aitken to explore our core values and beliefs before developing a set of principles to guide the 'what' (our practices) using the model of concentric circles below (which she explores in From Values and Beliefs about Learning to Principles and Practice.)
Now it's time to practise what I preach, break out a template of the circles and start in the centre and drill down into my 'why' so that that can sustain me when it gets tough. I'll most probably post on that!
One thing I do know after 20 years of principalship in 2 very different schools is that having a deeply thought-out and clearly identified set of core values and beliefs as an individual teacher leader (moral purpose) and as a school (vision/mission/values) is the only way you have a chance of making sense of the education world and solving the many complex problems that come your way.
But of course you have to be conscientious about making sure that the core values and beliefs determine your principles for action and the resulting practices you will put in place. That's the challenging work! As is looking at your current practices (the way we do things around here) and putting them back through the filter, starting at the central circle. What do you do when something you have always done doesn't align with your core values and beliefs?
I've been doing a lot of thinking about my personal leadership model that I have developed over the last 2 decades (see below):
I have found it relatively easy to work in the 'Moral Purpose' circle, developing my own set of values and my own 'why', working with others to do the same for a school and also working with individuals to develop their own.
The other 2 circles are a bit more challenging as they are a bit more to do with mindset/dispositions. While you can support people to access professional learning around Open to Learning Conversations how do you support leaders to be truly comfortable with the fact that they might be wrong! (More to come on that).
I have similarly struggled with the 'Courage' circle. Some people seem more naturally courageous than others, at first look. What does it take to be courageous as a leader? More and more, I'm of the belief that the foundation of courage comes from the centre of the three circles from Julia's model. It is when we are more certain about our/our organisation's core values and beliefs and the principles that emerge from them that we develop the confidence to be courageous, to stand for what we truly believe with a clear sense of our 'why'.
Maybe, the sweet spot where Moral Purpose and Courage overlaps comes from the centre circle of core values and beliefs.
My last post talked about the launching of HMWLead (How Might We Lead). Thank you to those who have made contact and started working with me. So far, most of that work, while having a range of contexts and foci, requires looking at core values and beliefs as we look to solve problems and support leaders to lead with moral purpose and courage (while being open to learning!).
I'm really looking forward to developing and sharing my thinking about the need to think about different ways of leading. Sing out if you think I can help.