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In September I embarked on the NPQSL, having completed the MLDP several years ago when I was 2 i/c Humanities. Back at the start of September I wrote a post about 10 lessons I’d learned last year, and one such lesson was that we need to take charge of our own CPD and career paths. This is what the NPQSL represents for me.

I have been both excited and nervous about writing this post. For me, this is a journey into previously uncharted territory and a glimpse into my heart & soul as a leader.

So why do I want to obtain the NPQSL?

For me the answer is simple; the higher position I attain, the greater influence I can have on the betterment of the lives of my students and colleagues. The NPQSL is a stepping stone on my path to being able to offer more than I currently do, and being able to serve on a wider, more holistic scale.

 My initial worries

When I first discovered I’d been accepted onto the NPQSL through our teaching school alliance, I must admit to my first thought being: perhaps they’ve made a mistake? Why would I be accepted when there are more suitable candidates than I? (This is of course despite the fact that I had actually applied!)

Once I had contacted them and confirmed that I did indeed have a place, I fretted about sending out the pre-programme 360 diagnostic to my colleagues: what if they thought I was awful? What if they didn’t think I should be doing NPQSL? How could I justify it if I rated myself against the competencies higher than they rated me?

Finally, prior to attending the first face-to-face training day, I was plagued by concerns that the other candidates would figure out that I didn’t have as much experience as them, that they’d think I was too young to be on such a course, or that they’d look down on me as I’m not already in an SLT position.

It would be logical at this point to ask why on earth I would proceed if these fears were the case.

However, there has to come a point when your goals and desires outweigh your fears; deep down I believe, in spite of my fears, that I have more to give.

Receiving my 360 feedback

Printing off my 360 Report was both daunting and enlightening. Some of the insights I gained after reflecting on my results include:

  • I rate myself lower than my colleagues do.
  • I need to raise my self-awareness, or rather recognise when I am deliberately sabotaging myself or being overly self-critical.
  • My core purpose of dedication to students/colleagues is recognised by those at all levels. e.g. peers, direct report & SLT.

My highest scoring competencies:

  1. Modelling excellence in leadership of T&L
  2. Learning focus
  3. Integrity
  4. Information seeking
  5. Serving others

My lowest scoring competencies:

  1. Resilience and emotional maturity
  2. Relating to others
  3. Self-awareness
  4. Inspiring others
  5. Partnership working

Undoubtedly I have some key areas of leadership to focus on over the coming year and I look forward to exploring and developing those aspects of myself as a leader.

NPQSL: the first day

Luckily a colleague of mine is also undertaking the NPQSL at the same time as me; there was no way I could talk myself out of attending with her driving me to the venue!

The first session began with introductions by the course facilitators, an outline of the course and a brief overview of the final assessment requirements. We also had to introduce ourselves; my inner-critic was on full volume as I listened to the rounds of “I’m Assistant Principal at….” or “ I’m director of KS5 at….” My own announcement of “I’m a Lead Practitioner at…” just didn’t have the same ring to it

We were then given some time to review the paperwork we had been given and start filling out our action plans for our school development tasks. (Mine involved primarily a series of vague ideas, but nothing concrete- I was assured that at this stage that is quite normal)

Following this we split into groups of 5-6 people from a range of schools – we were essentially forming an SLT for the time being. Our facilitator Carrie presented us with 20-odd scenarios in a ‘what would you do?’ activity. Carrie assured us that these were all real life scenarios that members of her SLT had encountered in the course of their careers.

Some notable examples are as follows:

  • You return late from a evening meeting at another school and on your way in see a senior member of staff in a compromising position with a female NQT.
  • A member of staff has claimed for a hotel stay on a course you know they did not attend.
  • A new (young) member of staff comes to you to report that over the summer holidays they had a ‘fumble’ with a girl they met in a club, who they have just discovered is now attending the schools 6th form as a student.
  • A member of staff telephones you to say that they have sold their departments textbooks on Amazon and they resign with immediate effect.

The conversation generated by these scenarios was lively, and brought up a range of issues that many of us had not had to consider before. I became acutely aware that SLT need to have sound knowledge in a range of policy areas in order to deal with such issues appropriately.

Looking back on the discussion we had, I can now see how each of us brought something different to the table: policy knowledge, experience, caution, decisiveness, a willingness to consider other options, a strong sense of morality, and constructive criticism. I have come to realise since the first session that any SLT is an amalgamation of talents, personalities and skills, and only by utilising our ‘opposites’ can we (and the team) fulfil its full potential.

The final aspect of the day related to us as leaders- our individual motives, values and traits. In an independent activity we were encouraged to select, from a range of values presented to us, 10 that we felt best describe us. Challengingly, we then had to narrow this to the most crucial 5- the 5 that form our core.

 My final 5 & my reasons why:

  • Love– the most powerful and motivating emotion; the strongest bond
  • Service– stems from my faith and my desire to help others be better (in whatever way ‘better’ means to them). This gives me purpose.
  • Advancement & promotion– stems from my belief that everyone can be more than what they currently are & that age, class, faith, background and attitude are not insurmountable barrier to growth.
  • Integrity- I aim to live as honestly as possible & live truly as a good person. What I do reflects what I am.
  • Learning– leads to growth and betterment.

My leadership style

The theory of Situational Leadership argues that leaders can analyse the situation at hand and then select the most appropriate leadership style to suit the purpose. However, we all have tendencies to lean more towards one style or another. This in itself does not overly matter; what matters is one’s self-awareness and skill in shifting their behaviours to adopt a suitable style as needed.

Situational Leadership model

Situational Leadership model


My leadership traits:

  • Perfectionist
  • Introverted
  • Self critical
  • Contemplative
  • Logical
  • Planned

On the face of it, I am naturally quite directive. Not necessarily the most inspiring, motivating and encouraging of styles. There are, of course, times when being directive is essential; in lifting a school from special measures, or in challenging troubling behaviour for example.

In this instance, my self-awareness is crucial, perhaps even more so considering how I lead is most certainly not how I like to be lead. As a result I can now actively take steps to adapt my reactions to different situations, and hopefully I can learn to adopt a more coaching mentality. To this end I am now seeking formal coaching training to try and bring greater balance to my leadership skills.

Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones are Europe’s leading experts on organisational culture, leadership and change. They are past winners of the prestigious McKinsey Award for the best article in the Harvard Business Review, entitled, “Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? Their work on Authentic Leadership is renowned and they fittingly hit right at the heart of the matter when they encouraged leaders from all professions to:

“be more of yourself, with skill.



It is with this goal in mind- to become an authentic but situational leader- that I have sought professional coaching to support me on my journey to Senior Leadership.


Alongside undertaking the NPQSL I am being coached by a member of SLT. Suffice to say that the 2 coaching sessions I have had since beginning the NPQSL have proven exhaustingly difficult, immensely emotional, profoundly thought provoking and ultimately extremely motivating.

Whilst not all of my insights have been pleasant ones (my inner critic is, as I said earlier, excellent at sabotaging me), the most useful have been the most profound.

My insights thus far:

  • My inner-critic is useful and not a total handicap- it keeps me focused on my purpose.
  • My reflective nature is useful and beneficial- it helps balance ‘yellow’ individuals (those with an extroverted nature, who tend to generate fantastic ideas but find it challenging to plan & implement them in a practical way)
  • I am not shy; I am however actually very sensitive to the opinions/views/emotions of others.
  • Engaging with my inner-critical too much causes a downward spiral of negative thinking.
  • Developing my coaching skills really fascinates and excites me, and I really believe it will help bring balance to my skill set.
  • My core purpose (to serve others and be useful) is more important to me than I’d recognised.
  • The traits I admire in other leaders relate to purpose, conviction and authenticity.
  • The vulnerabilities other leaders show only endear me to their cause more, yet my view my own as a weakness never to be revealed.
  • My greatest fears: that perhaps what I currently do is all I have to offer and that by becoming a leader I may make a decision that ultimately makes life worse for those I have dedicated my life to serving.
  • I am a lot more self-aware than I thought.

So after a month of revelations, challenges and anxieties, I can honestly say that exploring ‘me as a leader’ is more exciting and more fulfilling than I thought. The journey the NPQSL will take me on over the next year will undoubtedly bring greater challenges than those I have faced before, but I am confident that I will develop my ability to ‘be more of myself with skill.’

Thinking points:

  • What are the greatest fears of other leaders?
  • What can I bring to an SLT?
  • How will my core values assist me in becoming an effective Senior Leader in the coming years?
  • Why are some leaders more successful than others?
  • How can I create a vision which reflects my values and articulate it to others?
  • Why do I lead so differently to the way I like to be lead?
  • How do my values translate into my day to day actions in school?
  • To be an authentic leader, how much of ‘me’ should I let others see?