Considering Leadership in FE

As a teacher, you may be considering the next step in your career to your first leadership position. And for current leaders, you are probably reflecting upon how successful you were in your approach and what key learning points you will be taking forward. As a current senior leader, I devote a significant amount of time reflecting on my values and behaviours and whether I am having the positive impact I would like.

The recent Department of Education research report in 2018 by Prof David Greatbatch and Sue Tate ‘Teaching, leadership and governance in further education’ identifies the need to actively develop FE leaders as the current age profile of senior leaders suggests many are nearing retirement. The literature postulates that the sector must identify future leaders and support these individuals on their career path.

Greany et al. (2014) identify a series of skills necessary to be an effective leader. “Personal effectiveness and self-awareness – including the ability to recognise the impact of behaviour on others, modifying it where needed and working under pressure”. This skill resonates with me and highlights the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership. The following points highlight what I continue to learn to ensure this skill is developed.

Being comfortable with being you
Gaining a leadership role does not mean you have to adopt a new persona, nor do you need to digest and regurgitate a book on management theory every day. You have earned the position for being you, for demonstrating skills and qualities that the organisation want to invest in with the hope that you will go on to inspire other staff to adopt the same values and behaviours. Yes, some relationships will change as a result of moving to an elevated position, however, integrity is key, and staff will respect this.

Imposter Syndrome
I think this is inevitable and it’s that moment in time when we doubt ourselves and question whether we possess the necessary skills and qualities to lead others. In a study in 2013, researcher Hoang (2013), proposed that intrinsic motivation can decrease the feelings of being a fraud that are common in impostor phenomenon. On occasions I have experienced this and when I do I have a useful strategy that helps me. I keep a folder on my desktop of all the positive emails, messages, tweets, LinkedIn comments I have received. By reading these I am reminded that I do make a difference and that I really enjoy what I do. It is easy to forget past successes – keep a record!

I have found leaders that are comfortable with sharing a vulnerability gain more respect from colleagues as it brings a real authenticity to their leadership. It is ok to be honest with what is a concern and a nervousness around achieving goals. When colleagues see this I find they are more inclined to be on board and share the mission. In addition, staff will be more inclined to share their concerns and this supports an open and transparent culture, essential for effective quality improvement.

It’s essential to know what makes you tick, what motivates you and what gives you a fire in your belly. If your drivers are not being met, this will, in time, hinder your ability to love your work. Take a moment to reflect upon the week that has just passed, did you get enough of what motivates you? If not, what can you change to ensure more of your week encapsulates this.

Never allow yourself to be governed by the limiting attitudes of others. As leaders we can’t put on a cape and fly round the establishment solving every problem, many staff possess all the necessary skills and knowledge to solve problems themselves. Empowering others to find solutions supports a culture of devolved leadership.

With the upcoming shifts in the sector in terms of leadership positions, there’s never been a better time to apply all those excellent skills and qualities you have learned from teaching to leading staff.


Greany, T., Doughty, J., Earley, P., Farrar, M., Grainger, P., Hodgson, A. and Nelson, R. (2014). Leading in Volatile Times: Learning from Leadership Beyond the Education and Training Sector. London: Education and Training Foundation.
Greatbatch, D., Tate, S. (2018) Teaching, leadership and governance in Further Education: Department for Education.
Hoang, Q. (2013) “The Impostor Phenomenon: Overcoming Internalized Barriers and Recognizing Achievements,” The Vermont Connection: Vol. 34 , Article 6

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