LEADING LIGHTS     Issue 4 | 2021

Connecting and learning as leaders

Leadership networks provide us with the opportunity to renew and strengthen important connections

Article by   Dr. Sylvia Robertson

Leadership networks provide us with the opportunity to renew and strengthen important connections. Leadership is about so much more than what meets the eye. At the Centre for Educational Leadership and Administration (CELA), through our networks and professional learning, we focus on the intrapersonal as well as the interpersonal aspects of leadership. What does it mean to ‘be’ a leader and ‘do’ a leader’s work? How do we think, act and feel in our leadership roles as we respond to the influences that surround us? What are the beliefs and values that support us to sustain our practice? Exploration of our beliefs, thoughts, feelings and actions can then guide us towards better understanding of workplace challenges such as leading change, team building, motivation, resistance, hard-to-have conversations, and even making time for those all-important celebrations of success - no matter how small. Critical reflection is an important part of this process. In our programmes, we look to research in educational leadership for evidence of what has worked and how we might adapt these understandings to our own unique contexts. This is a process of weaving theory and practice together, of making connections, that often results in ‘aha’ moments as we come to understand why some approaches work while others are less successful. Through our leadership learning, we acknowledge that becoming and being a leader is a process of transition, of understanding our growing identity, and of shaping and being shaped by the connections we make.

As we continue to lead during the pandemic, it can be hard to sustain connections in meaningful ways, and to understand where to direct our attention. We are asked to draw on the strength within, to combat ‘compassion fatigue’ and to be hopeful. The Leadership Strategy (2018) refers to this in the capability: ‘embodying the organisation’s values and showing moral purpose, optimism, agency and resilience’. This prompts the question: How do school leaders stay resilient during a crisis such as a pandemic? In 2015, Professor Ross Notman studied school leaders in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes. He found the influence of significant others was a factor important for resiliency. These were people present in the public domain such as members of the senior leadership team, other staff members, parents or students. Also important were those in the private domain such as family and friends. Often it was appreciative feedback from the leaders’ teams or their students that was found to support resilience and hope in leaders, even in very challenging situations. A quiet word from an unexpected source can mean so much. Perhaps this research resonates with you. In my case studies, I have found similar stories emerging from the current pandemic as leaders shape the responses that enable teaching and learning to continue. Our relationships, and the connections we make, are key. Over the break, there may be time to reflect on where you draw your strength and to celebrate these people, places or even pets!

In 2022, we hope that these connections will thrive, and look forward to once again meeting in our networks and through our professional learning (hopefully, kanohi ki te kanohi) as we continue to build the vital relationships that underpin school culture.

I wish you well – a restful break and some time for quiet reflection.

Noho ora mai

Sylvia Robertson


Notman, R. (2015). Seismic leadership, hope, and resiliency: Stories of two Christchurch schools post-earthquake. Leadership and Policy in Schools, 14(4), 437-459. DOI: 10.1080/15700763.2015.1039137

Teaching Council (2018). The leadership strategy for the teaching profession of Aotearoa New Zealand: Enabling every teacher to develop their leadership capability. Education Council.