'We need strong values-led leadership in today's divided world'

The qualities traditionally ascribed to female leadership are among those that are most needed in our schools, and indeed in the turbulent wider world, writes a co-founder of the Leading Women’s Alliance

Kate Chhatwal

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Friday 20 January turned out to be a very good day to be closeted in the theatre at the Mulberry and Bigland Green Centre, surrounded by scores of inspirational leaders, cut off from the outside world.

When we set the date for the second Leading Women’s Alliance Summit last summer, we had no idea it would be the day Donald Trump would be inaugurated. Uppermost in our minds at that time were the communities closer to home, reeling in the aftermath of the Brexit vote.

Both events provided a backdrop for a day focused on the need for, and the power of, values-led leadership.

The day after 52 per cent of voters set us on the path to Brexit last May, my six-year-old son asked his half-Indian daddy whether his life would be different because of the referendum result.

He understood he was “different” but he wasn’t sure what that meant. He was scared.

And with some justification – by the end of the summer term, reports of hate crime had increased by 40 per cent on the previous year. Friends at a school serving a high proportion of Spanish migrants found a note on the school gate telling them to go home.

Eight months on – and only two weeks after his inauguration – President Trump is whipping up hatred, mistrust and discrimination that threatens not only the cohesion of our communities, but peace and stability across the world. Now I’m scared, too.

If ever there was a time for strong leadership and stronger values, now is that time.

'Messages of unity, tolerance and love'

Messages of unity, tolerance and love need to come from all leaders, from the prime minister (of the UK as well as Canada) to those growing the leaders and building the communities of the future in our schools.

The changing education leadership landscape provides another important bit of context.

The continuing growth of multi-academy trusts, teaching schools and other alliances calls for leaders who are more connected, more collaborative, more able to trust and delegate, empower and inspire.

They must be able to unite partners, colleagues and staff around a shared vision and develop the culture, values and strategy to achieve it.

At the summit, we were careful not to stereotype about “men’s” and “women’s” leadership styles because how one leads is not predetermined, and can be developed and adapted over time and to different circumstances.

However, we did start from the (evidence-backed) premise that the qualities traditionally ascribed to female leadership – including being values-led, collaborative, nurturing and empowering — are among those most needed for successful leadership in today’s interconnected, self-improving school system, and turbulent social, economic and political world.

The research base came from the second White Paper in the Transpersonal Leadership series, which suggests that female leaders outperform male leaders in all but four of the 19 emotional intelligence capabilities needed for 21st-century leadership.

Greg Young, the report’s author, concludes that “women have the natural attributes that when realised make them ideal leaders for organisations in the 21st century”. We agree.

Women (and men) exhibiting such qualities are uniquely placed to provide the values-led leadership needed to secure the best outcomes for our children and young people, and to heal our communities after the divisive national and global events of the past 12 months.

Those attending the summit came away with the motivation and practical strategies to seize the opportunities to do just that.

Dr Kate Chhatwal is director of Southwark Teaching School Alliance and co-founder of the Leading Women’s Alliance. Dr Chhatwal will be co-leading a session on inspiring and empowering the next generation of women leaders at the ASCL 2017 Conference.

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Kate Chhatwal

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