Friday, 27 April 2012

Is leadership an innate quality or a learnable skill?

The last workshop of PGDE Curriculum Studies this week, and it was a happy-sad occasion.  The students have progressed so much, changed greatly and (I hope) learned and enjoyed themselves lots!  The year has flown by, but I think that's the nature of getting old too.

I am immensely proud of the progress they have all made, and I'm even more impressed by the innovation, enthusiasm and talent on display.  I suggested something to my group that I really beleive: "If you stop enjoying the job, do something else."  In my opinion, there are enough teachers out there that don't seem to enjoy themselves anymore - perhaps they never did...  Our young people deserve the best education and this can only happen with dedicated, enthusiastic, skilled teachers.  As such, I really hope that some of this cohort go on to be educational leaders of the highest calibre in the future - there are certainly a few to watch!

A recent article in the Guardian alluded to the fact that there is a lack of strong applicants for the top leadership jobs in education.  This led me to thinking that maybe Leadership could be some sort of elective for PGDE students...  I'm not sure this is feasible, but who knows?  Maybe it should even be compulsory!

So, is leadership something that one can learn?  Are leaders born?  There is often comment made that people like Churchill or Martin Luther King or Martin Johnson are born leaders, but are they really?  Is there some common feature of a leader, or are leaders shaped by the experiences of their lives?  Is it a combination of both (or more)?

Thus, I conclude by considering the nature of leadership in ITE.  We are all leaders in the classroom, yet we assume that all teachers have the skills to be a leader from the outset.  Is this really the case?  Do the student teacher already have these skills in some innate way, as it's not something that they get a lecture on!  (Do we even all have the qualities to be leaders?!)  Perhaps the ITE of the future will not be about electives in EAL or Outdoor Learning, but in Leadership or something like it...


  1. A very interesting post!

    As a current PGDE student, I love the idea of leadership as an explicit part of the PGDE course. And I would certainly vote for making it compulsory!

    This statement probably hints at my belief that leaders can be made. Or rather, that leadership skills, like teaching skills can be developed.

    I agree that we shouldn't assume that new teachers (or in fact, experienced teachers) have these skills. I think these skills would be fabulously useful for teachers in their roles as mentor, role model, teacher, classroom manager, colleague, department head, depute, head teacher, etc.

    Leadership skills include many other useful subskills that I think would be incredibly valuable for all teachers: communication, time management, prioritising, teamwork, etc.

    I believe that ITE shouldn't just prepare the next batch of classroom teachers for their probation year, it should also lay the foundations for creating the next batch of educational leaders and policy makers.

  2. There is no question in my mind that leadership is both an art and a science. Are some people more naturally talented in art than others? Sure. Just as some people are more talented athletes. However, much of success in both art and sports comes from those people who are willing to spend hour after hour getting better, learning new skills and practicing new techniques

    1. Thank you for your comments. I entirely agree with your thoughts. I, for one, am working very hard at being a better leader and it is a steep learning curve!