We have never needed courageous leaders more…

by Karen Amos

Leadership is all over the news.  Firstly there’s the Post Office scandal.  Much of this will be new to many people, but the fact is, this is far from a new issue.  I was first aware of it around 2010, as an acquaintance was one of the Post Masters in question.  He ended up taking out a huge loan to patch up a financial hole, not of his making, or risk prosecution and lose the family business.  The impact was devastating on his physical, mental and financial wellbeing. The situation was picked up and consistently reported on by media outlets such as Private Eye, Radio 4 and Panorama, but still no meaningful movement from either the Post Office, or indeed the government, despite them being well aware of this.  People jailed, made bankrupt, family breakups and suicides. Still no-one stepped forward.  Finally, a mainstream broadcaster ITV, created prime-time drama series and the government eventually commits to action.

Same with the ongoing situation with Ofsted inspections.  It wasn’t until the tragic death of Ruth Perry following her school’s downgrading following an Ofsted inspection that a light was cast on what teachers, leadership teams and particularly Head Teachers have known for years – the process isn’t fit for purpose.  Untold stress and suffering within schools in the name of raising standards.  Teachers and Heads reconciling themselves with feeling sick every week as an inspection was imminent and careers being wrecked, not to mention the toll on mental health.  As with the Post Office scandal, this isn’t ‘just’ the ruining of lives and livelihoods – people died.

So what’s the cause of the problem?  Tech?  Comms?  Process?

No, the cause lies with with leadership – specifically, cowardly, dishonest, unethical and self-serving leadership, which in truth is no leadership at all.

There are the leaders who focus on process, making sure everything can be monitored and that systems are in place. Those setting out the ‘business as usual’ mantra, when life is anything but.  The leaders that force the perpetual direction of travel that involves people being asked to do more and more with fewer and fewer resources until those people break.  Those priding themselves on being ‘decisive’, whilst never once pausing to look back and check where everyone else is on this journey. And if anyone’s lagging behind? – well, they need to get their backside in gear and quick.  And finally, those leaders and business owners who seek to exploit the system, state, or people in order to make a quick buck.

Then there are inspirational leaders out there who ‘do the right thing’ by looking after their teams, clients and communities. These are the people who ‘bend’ the rules where need be, provide reassurance and are understanding and empathetic to the needs of others.  The leaders who understand the impact on those going through huge daily challenges such as the cost of living crisis and balancing home and work with pressures on childcare for example.

I believe we need strong, ethical leadership now more than ever and Authentic Leadership sets out the blueprint for this. The need for courage, vision, compassion and a strong set of ethical values. Above all, the ability to put these into positive action. As I’ve said before, Authentic Leadership isn’t, ‘Take me as you find me – warts and all.’ Anyone trying to lead a team with that attitude is, quite rightly, destined for failure.  And it’s certainly not ‘fluffy bunny’. No, Authentic Leadership is the toughest thing you will ever do.  It means having the courage to do what’s needed and the heart to do what’s right.

Here are a few coaching questions to get you started on checking how courageous your leadership style is…

  1. What do I stand for as a leader?  What are my ‘lines in the sand’ I will never cross?
  2. Am I ever guilty of not following my own principles and ethics – and what causes this?
  3. How will I know when I’m ‘doing the right thing’?
  4. What are the signs I may not be acting courageously as a leader – seen in myself and others?  What impact does this have on me?
  5. What one thing could I put into place today that would ensure I was doing the right thing by others?

If you’d like to learn more about how to take a coaching approach to Managing Difficult Conversations and Effective People Management, we’ve just launched our Summer 2024 public courses. 

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Karen Amos is an executive coach and Director and Founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports business owners, managers and education leaders to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

Tel: 07714 855757 or email: karen@bright-bird.co.uk