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How academies can harness leadership for growth

Leading your academy through change effectively requires acute focus from your people

Posted by Joe Lawson-West | November 15, 2019 | Law, finance, HR

Leading your academy through change effectively requires acute focus from your people. Understanding the needs and concerns of different groups within your organisation creates greater alignment in order to achieve fruitful growth.

In any organisation, whether a school or other entity, that is currently changing or has gone through change, there is always a danger that the legal, financial and procedural considerations will be given primacy to the detriment of people and relationships. History has repeatedly shown that the biggest risk to derailment in change is the people element. This is principally because people are at the heart of your organisation and as emotionally intelligent individuals, they are complex and often do not respond well to a procedural based approach or react well to change. 

Creating shared values

Some people can embrace change and others will decide that the new status quo is not for them. As a leader of an academy, it is extremely important going forward that everyone associated with it, understands your reason for:

  • The academy’s existence (mission statement)
  • What you believe in? (values)
  • Where you are going? (vision and goals).

What do the people in these groups currently think regarding each of these areas; where is there alignment and where is there division? If you are joining a Multi Academy Trust (MAT), how might you create a set of shared values? Finding time to address and work towards achieving a working alignment with the MAT, the academy and its staff will pay dividends and directly contribute to your success, but it has to be planned and takes time (it will not happen overnight).  

Alignment using communication

As a leader, regular communication is paramount across your immediate team, upwards to the Board and most importantly to the parents and students, i.e. those whose presence justifies the schools very reason to exist. This is because everything communicates: what you say and do and more importantly what you don’t. It is better to craft and take control of your message than allow for the void to be filled by someone else’s take/inference on the situation.

An organisation that enjoys the best channels of communication will still experience conflict. People will always have differing views when considering what is in the best interest of the school. Despite often receiving bad press, conflict is not in itself a bad thing; but if it is handled clumsily, it can create problems and cause divisiveness. Coaching your leadership and teaching staff to be better placed to understand the drivers of conflict, and how to handle it constructively through difficult conversations, is a crucial investment.

How to move forward

Finally, leaders can often forget their own needs. It can be a lonely existence. Who should you consult with to off-load or bounce ideas off of? Think about using an executive coach. They are trained to be excellent thinking partners. 

These are a few examples of some of the challenges faced by academies right now, and yours will inevitably be unique to the situation you face. If you would like to discuss your challenges and learn about how we might be able to assist you get in touch at

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