Vision, communication and trust – 3 vital attributes of great leaders

As Ernest Hemingway once said “The best way to learn if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” Given that all organisations, including schools, grow by learning, then trust has to be the most important aspect of leadership. Healthy schools are full of relationships built on trust and it starts with the leader.

Honesty and integrity in the school’s leader(s) is crucial to building that all important culture of trust. Having the staff in your school trust you is only one half of the equation. The other half is developed through trusting teachers and support staff to work together responsibly in the best interests of the school and it’s students. Knowing when to surrender control of things and having confidence in others to initiate, plan and implement without being micromanaged is of utmost importance in growing successful and collaborative schools.

Having a clear vision and direction plays a key supporting role to building trust. Firstly, in that school leaders have faith in the school’s vision and can inspire their team to work towards it. Secondly, through leaders providing road maps to go with the vision; they know how to get there and the challenges that may be faced along the way and how they may be tackled. Thirdly, they constantly communicate the vision in an unerring fashion and model the way forward wearing their lighthouse hard hat ready to support their followers.

Communication plays an essential supporting role to realising the school’s vision and establishing a culture of trust. Good, clear communication from leaders builds strong relationships; everyone knows where they stand and clearly understand what they are trying to achieve. Open communication channels can help build relationships of mutual respect making staff feel valued and able to raise concerns during times of stress and whenever seeds of doubt creep in to what they are able to accomplish. Great leaders are able to communicate their decisions clearly when needed. Crucially, communication from the best leaders is sincere and genuine and commonly the say “we” as opposed to “I” when it comes to the completing task(s) ahead; they see themselves as part of the team and make time for face to face communication with their colleagues taking an interest in and makes time for them.

While their are many other attributes that go a long way to making a good leader, I very much believe that it starts with these three things. A school leader needs to know and communicate where their school is going and how to get there, whilst also securing the trust of and trusting in their colleagues in getting there.

Published by Richard Bruford

Richard is currently Secondary School Principal of Suzhou Singapore International School, one of China's leading international schools. He leads workshops across the Asia-Pacific region for the International Baccalaureate in the areas of pedagogical leadership and approaches to teaching and learning. Richard consults with schools on the topics of school improvement and effective implementation and use of technology. With a background in public and independent school education in the UK and Australia, Richard is enjoying his international school adventure in China. He is passionate about developing and supporting educational leaders, as it is essential to improving all schools. Richard is a proud family man and feels lucky to be married to Kim and father of their son Austin. In his spare time Richard enjoys to swim, bike and run and is a now retired football player and coach (with occasional guest appearances)

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