LEADING LIGHTS     Issue 1 | 2023

VUCA vision understanding clarity agility symbol. Concept words VUCA vision understanding clarity agility on cubes. Orange background. Business and VUCA vision understanding clarity agility concept.

Leading in times of turmoil

Forums, a taster event - Capturing our voices!

Report by forum facilitators and team   

VUCA world word cloud concept on white background. VUCA is an acronym used to describe or reflect on the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of general conditions and situation.

Leading in a times of turmoil

The leaders shared what they thought was highly important having experienced ‘leading in a time of turmoil’.

The needs of people in the community and how we respond to these needs is priority one

This is about

  • Collective well-being
  • Informing and communicating
  • De-esalating situations creating a more positive outlook
  • Creating connection; being connected
  • Bringing into school; inviting
  • Being alongside our community
  • Being with people
  • Taking time to bring people together
  • Creating a shared purpose

This had ‘implications’ for leadership

We found we needed to be and use and model

  • authoritative, taking charge, setting the pace, creating the mood as it was what the situation demanded. (Leadership styles: Goleman connects these styles to emotional intelligence).
  • One’s listening capability, hearing others, noticing and seeing others, connecting through listening
  • Have ways of seeing the perspectives of others
  • Relational, it is about relationships, the relational, people matter, being relationally adept, having relationship-based connections
  • Social justice matters, equity matters
  • Being agile, flexing, having flexibility, responding, being responsive, having speed, setting pace, being adaptive
    • Shifting the narrative ( from volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity- V.U.C.A.)
      • To one where V.U.C.A stands for

Supporting people, with awhi, offering pastoral care

This had implications for ourselves as leaders

‘Being’ the leader

Being calm, showing calmness, creating calmness, having a language and narrative of calmness, controlling the narrative for positive purposes, putting another perspectives, influencing direction, having an impact on the situation, focusing people on, guiding energy placement, knowing how to create calmness

Knowing priorities, arriving at priorities, sifting to sort out priorities

Being resilient, having resiliency

Exhibiting emotional well-being, ensuring emotional well-being

Focus on collaborativeness, collaboration matters, sense of teamness, being together, not going it alone


  • Concurrent (more than one, sharing the load )
  • Collective (decision making together)
  • Collaborative (everyone in the team ‘in control’ and can speak for)
  • Compassionate (values in action, commitment to one another’s dignity and mana)
    • Collaborative is engaging, negotiating and celebrating voices to develop understandings and skills. Collaboration requires trust and openness to challenging and being challenged by others. Individual initiative and responsibility needed in order to co-construct skills, ideas and solutions with others (Jefferson and Anderson, 2017, Transforming Schools).
    • Creating relational connection, connectedness, community, locally and within systems
    • Thinking holistic, having an holistic view encompassing collective energy, collective capability, believing in others
    • School /Centre as centre of web - a catalyst
    • Leader being alongside, mucking in, the interdependence 

Leading in Aotearoa New Zealand

Whenu- the seven roles of leadership

  1. He Kaitiaki - guardian
  2. He Kaiwhakarite - manager
  3. He Kanohi Matara - visionary
  4. He Kaiako - teacher and learner
  5. He Kaimahi – worker
  6. He Kaikōtuitui – networker
  7. He Kaiarataki - advocate

Tū Rangatira (Māori Medium Educational Leadership)

  • Having awareness - of others and of self
  • Strengths people bring, dispositions, capabilities
  • Raelin (2010) ‘Leaderful’ (shifting from leadership in practice to leaderful practice)


  • Porche (2009), differentiates crisis leadership from crisis management. Crisis management is more operational, including processes such as diagnosis, decision making, and resource mobilisation. Crisis leadership has oversight of crisis management but also provides a vision, direction, and big-picture thinking. (in Mutch 2020)
  • The literature suggests that being visible and able to emanate calm are important skills that would be needed in a crisis event. One New Zealand principal displayed this quality when the earthquake hit: “I put on my principal’s smile. Parents arrived and were standing outside. I realized then that I had an audience and my response needed to be calm and instantaneous. I had to look like I was in control.” (Principal, School NZ1, in Mutch, forthcoming).
  • The crisis-leadership role is all-consuming. In order to not burn out, leaders need to take time to pause and slow down: You need some calm time to stop, to talk to yourself about what has happened. To work out what you want to say and how you are going to say it. You are going to have to explain to children what will happen next and how things are going to get fixed. You need to find some time for yourself to reflect on everything. (Principal B, in Mutch, 2015b, p. 48
  • Crisis leaders need a consistent, recognisable, and credible leadership approach. They concluded that the style is not as important as providing stability, confidence, reassurance, and a sense of control (Alkharabsheh et al. 2013). De Bussy and Paterson (2012), on the other hand, found transformational leadership to be highly effective in a crisis context but harder to sustain over the long term, especially once a sense of normalcy had returned. In the end, what is more important than the particular style is that the leader is able to “detach from a fraught situation and think clearly about how [they] will navigate it …” all the while displaying “deliberate calm”, and “visible decisiveness” (D’Auria & De Smet, 2020, pp. 4–5)
  • Excerpts from Carol Mutch (2020) Evaluation Matters—He Take Tō Te Aromatawai 6: 2020 © New Zealand Council for Educational Research 2020 https://doi.org/10.18296/em.0058 https://www.nzcer.org.nz/nzcerpress/evaluation-matters