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Leadership - Do your job, you won't be lonely

Headteachers and other school leaders who complained it was "lonely at the top" were not doing their job properly, claims the leader of Scotland's secondary heads.

Ken Cunningham, general secretary of School Leaders Scotland, told a leadership conference in Glasgow that leaders had to be in touch with everything around them, remaining "connected" with the values systems that underpinned their organisations. Social acumen and engagement were critical to good leadership, whether in business or education. "It is no longer acceptable for leaders to complain it's lonely at the top," he said. "If they are lonely, they are not doing their job."

Schools could encourage connectedness by "feeding off each other and helping each other", but there were still some which didn't have connections with other agencies or other schools, he said.

"Connectedness" appears to be the latest theme to define good leadership, it emerged at the conference.

Graham Thomson, director of the Scottish Centre for Studies in School Administration, said although he saw a lot of good practice in schools, he did not see enough "connectedness" or sharing of good practice.

People in universities, government and at school level were working too much in silos, he told the conference on leadership and workforce planning in Scotland's public sector. "It makes me feel frustrated. The talent is there but I don't see the connectedness," said Mr Thomson.

Mr Cunningham said school leaders had a job to do in "reconnecting chronically disconnected students". "Is it possible that half our high school students may not believe that adults in school care about their learning and about them as individuals?" There had to be the right culture of trust and accountability, he said. Leadership style had to be one of "valuing people over processes".

The concordat between the Scottish Government and local authorities meant that in the "new world" of single outcome agreements, everyone had to collaborate to deliver them, said Clive Martlew, head of corporate learning with the Scottish Government: "Delivery of outcomes is not something that can be done from within professional and organisational silos."

Working on the Scottish Leadership Development Collaboration programme, the key message was: "We can do better working together."

But new ways of working and leadership skills had to be developed. If bodies tried to optimise their performance at the expense of others, they would create a "toxic" environment, warned Mr Martlew.

The early years framework was an example of where real collaboration had taken place, he told the audience in Glasgow at the conference on public sector leadership, organised by Holyrood Events.

Early years professionals had moved from "being collaborative" to "seeing collaboratively".

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