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Scrutinised from every angle

Senior management from corporate giants such as IBM, ICI and Unilever have been put through the leadership training mill by consultants Hay McBer. Now it is the turn of college heads.

"A lot of household names have used a similar programme, and it works," says managing consultant Pam Kennett. "We know it works - it will have a big impact on them."

So what are principals letting themselves in for? First comes the diagnostic stage where the strengths and weaknesses of their leadership are assessed, warts and all.

In what is called "360-degree assessment", the opinions of their college staff are also taken into account.

At this stage, participants produce a personal development plan, stating what they want to get out of the training programme, and focusing on improving their leadership skills.

What others think of their leadership ability is confidential. It is left up to them whether they choose to share it with fellow principals on the course.

"Inevitably they do," says Pam Kennett. "I's all very open: you create this environment of trust where people are talking about their own development issues."

Then follow two intensive four-day residential modules, one on leadership, the other on strategic practice.

The leadership module is being delivered by Hay McBer. As well as its work with corporate giants, the company also runs the Leadership Programme for Serving Headteachers. The module will draw heavily upon this experience. It will look at the role of college principals, the challenges facing them, and how changes in the sector will affect their role.

And it will analyse what they bring to the job, their leadership style, how they use it day-to-day, and the climate this creates within the college.

College heads will find themselves confronted by some cutting-edge thinking in management development. For exampl, their "emotional intelligence" will be put to the test. This is a new concept developed and tested on companies in the United States. "There's been a lot of research into what drives outstanding performance," explains Pam Kennett. "It's proved that it's not the IQ that matters. It's about the emotional intelligence somebody brings into the role.

"Things like their self-awareness, their understanding, their self-control, their ability to manage themselves and empathise with others."

The final part of the training programme will explore what they need to do to develop their leadership when they leave the programme and go back through the college gates.

There is also a work-based project, with online tuition and support from management tutors at the University of Surrey. The university is offering accreditation of up to 40 postgraduate-level credits.

Pam Kennett also delivered the training programme for school heads. She says the principals' training will be similar, but will be geared more to the corporate nature of their role.

How much is this training aimed at new principals? And how will it take into account the experience of long-serving ones?

"Some people will have had more experience around development, training and leadership concepts. Others may not have come across this before. But we believe everybody will get something out of it," says Ms Kennett.

This is echoed by Graham Peeke, FEDA's director of continuing professional development. "We think this is going to be applicable to principals with any degree of experience.

"If you're a well-established principal, I think it's really important to have a chance to reflect on how you are doing. And if you're a new principal, it's going to be uppermost in your mind - issues of strategy and where you're going to take the college over the next few years."

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