For the last couple of years I’ve been working with quite a few people who are new to role – whether that be new to the profession, new to middle leadership or new to senior leadership – and I’ve noticed there are a number of things which no one ever tells us when we step into these roles and it makes our jobs so much easier when you work it out. I’ve read leadership books and I’ve had coaching over the years but I firmly believe I became much more effective as a teacher and a leader when these things clicked – and that was before I read them in a book 🙂
Working with many different Middle and Senior Leaders in different capacities during my career, I found each of them had a very different take on the level of autonomy someone has in their role. Getting to grips quickly with where you have autonomy over your areas of responsibility makes taking on new roles and new responsibilities much less frustrating and stressful – and being ready to accept that a new school, a different line manager, different leadership will mean this shifts and changes over time, even if your role doesn’t.
You could find yourself dropped in the deep end and left to get on with it. This can appear to be hugely empowering – taking ownership of your areas of responsibility, making your own decisions and little input from anyone else is ideal for some people. But you could feel lonely and like you’re carrying the world on your shoulders with little support. Or you could find you are given strict instructions on what to do. For some people this makes them feel safe and secure and supported but for others it can feel constricting. Or you could find yourself somewhere in the middle. For example, I once worked with someone who made it really clear that they did things a certain way in their school and, as long as you worked within the framework they gave you, you had a huge amount of autonomy. Just don’t ever do anything outside those boundaries!
The key is to work out who you are working with and establish where you can just get on with things and where the expectation is that you’ll be checking in with someone before you act. This does change with experience and you can expect to become more autonomous in a role over time but, as I said at the start, you can find yourself working with different expectations of how autonomous you can be when the person you are working with changes. With hindsight, I probably appreciated this when I changed roles or schools but I wish I’d picked up this would also be something to consider when other people around you changed role yet your role was still the same. Understanding this is also central to thinking about how you are going to ‘manage’ the relationships with those you work with – managing people as an up and down process will be my next “I wish I’d known”.