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Leading with confidence - 10%braver in action #SeatAtTheTable

by Kate Claydon     @KateClaydon

The role of a headteacher is the most privileged within our profession. 

You have the opportunity to shape the culture and ethos of your school, determining not only the academic outcomes of your students but also developing their characters, confidence and understanding of values; sowing seeds that will grow for the rest of their lives. You also have the opportunity to determine what day-to-day working life is like for the staff in your school, supporting them to bring out the best in your students and themselves - another incredible privilege.

Why then, with all that the role has to offer, are so many female leaders reluctant to put themselves forward for headship? 

Why do we not naturally see ourselves as leaders? 

Why do we not think that we could be effective headteachers from early on in our careers? (Hopefully some women now do think this, I certainly didn't!)

Reflect for a moment and think about your own experiences and consider your own confidence.

What have you done recently that was outside your comfort zone? 

What have you been proud of achieving that you didn't think you could? 

Have you turned down any opportunities because you didn't feel confident enough? 

Because you didn't think you had the skills?

Confidence in yourself is critical and for me the crux of this comes from experience, from doing, from proving that I can achieve things, from taking opportunities and putting myself in a position where I have no choice but to step up and deliver. And what really drives me as a leader is how we then create these opportunities for others, particularly women. How do we make it easier for others to experience those moments where they are outside their comfort zone, doing new things and thriving because their confidence grows with each new experience?

My own experiences that have built huge confidence include moving schools twice in three years. Joining schools at deputy level was something that really tested my ability to do what I think is the most important aspect of school leadership, building great relationships and building them fast. You are highly visible and you feel that everyone is looking at what you're doing so you have to earn credibility quickly. By that I don't mean that everyone necessarily liked me, agreed with me or wanted to work with me but I was able to build strong enough relationships through listening to people, by being approachable, supportive and optimistic that I was generally able to take people with me.

Knowing yourself and what you're about is key to demonstrating confidence with others, and that also builds your credibility. 

In some ways this is very straightforward for school leaders because what is right for our students and will benefit them most is the core to any decision-making, planning and actions that we undertake. If we hold true to this value we can be confident in all we do and it actually makes a lot of the harder parts of the job easier because you know you're doing things for the right reasons.

What is also key is the confidence to think that things could be done differently and to break the mould of what's been before. 

I've worked for some exceptional heads who I have highly respected and learnt so much from and it's very easy to fall into the trap of wanting to emulate what you've seen them do and not quite be confident enough to find your own path. 

My favourite quotation is that from Jacinda Arden, whose assertion that you can be 'both compassionate and strong' resonates deeply with me. I use it to motivate myself and remind others that we can create different models, carve out different paths from those walked before and, as female leaders, reshape the narrative of what exceptional and strong leadership looks like. 

As the female headteacher of a large mixed secondary school, with a predominantly female senior leadership team, I'm exceptionally privileged to play a part in modelling what this journey looks like, and, I hope, inspiring others to realise that they too can be female leaders, both in education and beyond.

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Girls, Physics and Planet Possibility
Tend and befriend. #SeatAtTheTable


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Monday, 27 March 2023

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