Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Collaborative Leadership

Growing Leadership in Collaborative Environments
CORE Education Empower Course
Challenge 2

My colleagues and I have been involved in an Empower Course through CORE Education for the last few months. As part of this learning we have been required to complete challenges. The latest challenge is below

Module 2 - Intentional Acts of Leadership Challenge
Making the case for collaborative leadership. Develop a 2-4 page model that shows how you see collaborative leadership working in your context. Include a rationale, risks and opportunities, possible implementation strategy/practice, roles and responsibilities. Also Include any challenges you identify and how you envisage overcoming them. 
The purpose of this challenge is to: 
  • Formulate a model for leading within a collaborative setting and leading in a way that fosters a culture of collaboration and inclusivity. 
  • Describe the dispositions or qualities and style of a collaborative leader and the deliberate acts of leadership required to build and support a collaborative, inclusive learning culture within your context 
  • Justify, reflect on and defend your collaborative leadership model.

Here is our team, made up of Chris Bell, Maria Krause and James Hopkins, combined thoughts and new learnings. 

This Empower Course has been very beneficial to my knowledge and development of leadership. The very collaborative nature of my colleagues has really enhanced my learning through powerful discussions as we decided to do challenges as a collaborative project. This has been really interesting as it is decreased our workload immensely while increase our understanding and learning much more than if we were working individually.  

I have been really impressed with the way conversations happened, with a group of people that are comfortable with collaboration, and also comfortable with conflict. On a number of occasions our online meetings have been ones where we have come in with no real idea of where we going to head with our learning and challenge, definitely times we were well and truly in the “pit”.  Once we got used to the fact that there's going to be silence in these meeting and you get comfortable with that silence. While we were processing the information or latest discussion, we came up with some really good unpacking of what we had to do.

It was very interesting because we would start with the four of us looking for someone to take a leadership role and quite often no one was really in the position of a good enough understanding of the task to do this. So as a result there was a lot of uncomfortable silence, until someone might have just said or sparked an idea which then developed with the rest of the group until a more tangible idea that we could latch ahold of and move forward.

I think this is something that we as teachers often forget about, the uncomfortableness of new learning, of taking a risk. I suppose putting yourself out there and allowing others to know that you do not really know what you're talking about. I guess part of this blog post and our presentation is that that we were putting it out there, that we may not necessarily be right on the money as to our understanding of the new knowledge, however there was very good learning from this and we continued growing and learning as we move through the challenges.

I think that messy learning is good for others to see you as well, often we produce and share a final product that you do not get to see all that messiness in behind. I know that in the past teachers have said to me ‘we go to a conference and see that amazing presenter up on stage and they think OK well that's awesome but how do I get to there"?  I often have to stop and inform them that the awesome presenter has got there by experiencing the warts and all and learning from them.
I think that is a part in our education system that we miss as leaders, showing the process and learning the person has gone through in order to get where they are now.

As our sector embraces Teaching as Inquiry and the affordances of digital technologies I wonder if this messy learning will become more visible.


  1. Kia ora Mark, thanks for sharing your collaborative leadership challenge. I love your openness and honesty, I believe this is something we could all do better. A couple of your points really struck a cord with me
    - you need to be comfortable with conflict
    - taking risks, putting yourself out there even if you don't have all the answers, but from this comes learning
    I am still reflecting on your Challenges and Risks, something for us as a cluster to reflect also - thanks for sharing!

  2. Kia ora Mark. And to build on Gary's reflections I also acknowledge the wisdom of your comments about learning to be appreciate the value of "uncomfortable" moments of silence and the fact that new learning for adults can be just as hard, uncomfortable and messy as it is for students who we so often expect to engage in learning with untainted confidence and positive mid sets. In coaching conversations those "silences" are cherished as the space where deep thinking and new learning happens; I agree that we need to bring some of those ways of working and understanding into our regular professional conversations and have "MATES" agreements about giving each other permission to disagree, oppose and argue! Ngā mihi

  3. Thanks for sharing Mark. I have begun listening to the 5 Dysfunctions of a Team and it also reinforces the importance of uncomfortable silences and the importance of conflict within a team. I agree with your comments around conflict and the challenge is to push ourselves to engage in discussions that challenge each other. We have recently introduce MATES agreement to hopefully give staff a framework to feel comfortable doing this.

  4. Thank you for sharing Mark. I found your comments to be insightful and helpful. Leadership is complex, context based and challenging yet it has the potential to change work or learning cultures and improve ways of doing things in powerful ways.It is easier to be reflective and open within a collaborative team and I agree having rules of engagement such as a mates agreement is important. A key is being honest to yourself and others and being willing to revisit decisions and direction based on feedback and evidence. I think your model incorporates this reflective cycle leading to engagement and improvement.

  5. Great reflection Mark. It really gets to the heart of the experience it is to constantly push yourself into zones of discomfort. You also highlight that in the process of voyage and discovery we often access our humanity and, new findings or knowledge aside, that is often the thing that makes the most difference. Cheers

  6. Messy Learning. Love it Mark. A very apt description of our process and as you point out of learning in general. Messy learning that is visible is a challenge. I suspect the tech won't be the factor that holds back, it will be us. I'm thinking about an apprentice model married with tech somehow...


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