Tony Gurr

The Cornerstones of TEACHer LEADership

In Classroom Teaching, Educational Leadership on 07/05/2012 at 5:16 pm


This morning, as I was doing a bit of surfing (you know, the virtual type), I popped into one of my favourite teacher sitesVenspired (from Krissy Venosdale aka @ktvee).

I saw the first few lines of her latest post:

“What do you do?”

“Oh, I’m just a TEACHer.”


OMG! This is not the Krissy I have come to know and lovehang on, the next line read:

Have you ever said that? It’s only true if you believe it.


That’s better – take a look at the full post – then, come back!


Didn’t you just love what her little “World Changer” did? Didn’t you just love the LEADership her little “World Changer” demonstrated…and how that made Krissy feel?


Palmer QUOTATION - Circle of Trust


A few weeks ago, I was running a session with a group of trainers-in-training – and we wandered into the whole area of teacher LEADership.

This was not really planned…at all!

One of the participants said she was a bit uncomfortable referring to herself as a “LEADer”.

“I’m not a leader…I’m just a TEACHer…who wants to be a TRAINer!”

She told me.

Many of the other participants agreed.

I stopped the session…we had hit a “LEARNing moment…but I wasn’t ready for it!


Luckily there was a “phone box” in the room (my hard-drive – with a few rough notes on it).


In 1989, a bunch of LEADership gurus / boffins decided to set up a series of what they called the “Leadership Masterclass” – the first one was led by John Gardner and he outlined his views on what LEADership was all about…

  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Assertiveness
  • Capacity to motivate people
  • Courage and resolution
  • Decisiveness
  • Eagerness to accept responsibility
  • Intelligence and action-orientated judgment
  • Need for achievement
  • Physical vitality and stamina
  • Self-confidence
  • Skill in dealing with people
  • Task competence
  • Trustworthiness
  • Understanding of followers and their needs

Isa, Meryem and Yusef…no wonder so few educators have the kahunas to refer to themselves as a “LEADer” – the “Man of Steel” himself would struggle to fit into those tights and cape!

And, YES…I did have to place that text onto that image very strategically!


Fast forward 20 years (to 2009), the Masterclass boffins invited someone very different to speak to them. This speaker gave a much shorter definition of what matters in allthingsleadership:

  • Trust
  • Talent development
  • Openness and honesty
  • Learning from experience

That speaker was an EDUcatorSir Roy Anderson (ex-Rector of Imperial College, London)…

These were the two definitions I pulled off my harddrive…as part of this impromptu session.

I split the group in half and told each group to decide (in terms of the “definition” I had given them) whether they were LEADers – or not.

Do I need to tell you…really…what happened?


Many of us today still operate with “Superman model” of LEADership – and we forget that even little children can be “World Changers”.

The “Superman model” is also still very much based on “formal roles” – and this is one of the reasons we are often so disappointed with our “educational managers”. How does that old phrase go – “not all LEADers are managers, not all managers are LEADers”!



As Max Weber suggested, more of us need to start focussing on “acts of LEADership” (rather than “LEADers”). When we do this, we start to see that it is not only senior administrators that “do” LEADership

When we look at what LEADership is (through the eyes of an educator – like Sir Roy)…we begin to see that all TEACHers can (and should) be LEADers LEADers that are frequently only limited by what they believe about themselves…and what they do with those beliefs when they are with their own future “World Changers”.



So, here’s the deal – this is a set of thunks of what matters in Sir Roy’s definition of LEADership


If we look at this definition, we start to see a number of cornerstones



As another great man said (I have forgiven him for his unLEARNing rubbish):

Educators (along with nurses) are perhaps some of the most important “servant LEADers” we have on the planet – and we don’t have to “work at” as hard as those in other sectors. The whole purpose of education should be to help create an army of “World Changers” – as Greenleaf noted:

So, tell me again why we focus so much on “standarised tests”?



One of my favourite “World Changers” can be seen in the movie  Pay It Forward (yes, I do love the “boy genius” and old Kevin and the lovely Helen – and, remember that Kevin Spacy played a TEACHer in this movie).

If a “kid” can work out that he can touch 4,782,969 people in two weeks, and school managers can’t – we have got something seriously wrong in the “adult world”.

Caring for others is perhaps the best way to breathe life in to the role of the servant LEADer . This really comes out in the work of Mayeroff (1971) – who  defined care as “helping another grow and actualize himself…a process, a way of relating to someone” that involves development by

  • “being with” another
  • “being for” another
  • “being there” for another

All great TEACHers “get” this – so do many “World Changers”…



I think it was Albert Schweitzer that said, “The first step in the evolution of ethics is a sense of solidarity with other human beings”.

Sometimes, especially in the world of business, we forget this:

Peter Koestenbaum hit a home run when he said true LEADership:

…is empathy, which means service. It’s an attitude of love and compassion, of caring, of including people, of valuing them, of hearing them, or suffering when they suffer, and of being proud when they succeed.

Education is about “moral purpose” – a notion best explained by Micheal Fullan:

Moral purpose of the highest order is having a system where “all students learn, the gap between high and low performance becomes greatly reduced, and what people learn enables them to be successful citizens and workers in a morally based knowledge society” (The Moral Imperative of School Leadership, 2003)

It’s often said that LEARNers pick up more from who their TEACHers “are” – than what they “TEACH”. Ethics matter!



 We all know that trends may come and fads will go but:

Covey talks about “true north” principles in his 7 Habits:

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First
  • Habit 4: Think Win/Win
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand
  • Habit 6: Synergize
  • Habit 7: Sharpening the Saw

Then he gave us “Habit 8”:

  • Habit 8: Find Your Voice & Inspire Others to Find Theirs

I have not met many people who go wrong when they “live” these types of principles. And, that last one is how we co-create more “World Changers”!


LEARNing (the final, but most important, cornerstone)

Did you forget the name of the blog you are reading? Sir Roy didn’t forget it…the best LEADers don’t either.



  1. Bed time reading now literaly exists;) a long to go and many things to learn;) thanks for this post that reminded us of many leadership stuff;)

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