The #LockdownLeadership series is a collection of anonymous blogs about leadership during these uncertain times. Share your leadership journeys: confessions… conversations… celebrations… challenges… Reflect on your moments of: courage… compassion… clarity… craziness… Email 500 words to firstname.lastname@example.org to be shared in this safe space.
I know what good leadership looks like and more importantly how it feels; I am fortunate to have been inspired by inclusive, uncompromising, creative, passionate, caring, ethical and empathetic leaders who valued me and my work, encouraged and nurtured my interests, and developed my understanding of teamwork and work ethic. I flourished under leaders who guided me through supportive supervision in a team where sharing success, trust and real collaboration was part of the culture. Lack of leadership or taking responsibility is difficult for me to accept and I find myself becoming angry, frustrated and sad in response to my current situation in school. I am a teacher in a successful city secondary school, on the surface we look to have it sussed with excellent results, however the morale in my department is at rock bottom.
There were issues within the team before lockdown, but I am dismayed at the extent to which these have been exacerbated and further exposed during the school closure. As we prepared to leave school a sense of denial pervaded from our senior leaders and there was a worrying lack of any kind of plan from our team leader as to how we might continue to function; there was no discussion about maintaining a routine, or a strategy for how we could support pupils working from home. The atmosphere created by our leader’s comments and behaviour was strangely ‘end of term’, as if we were absolved of all our responsibilities with a shrug of shoulders and a cheery, ‘Good luck!’ Far from engendering a feeling of relief, the lack of direction left me feeling anxious and cast adrift.
As the weeks passed the sense of isolation intensified; there was a lack of regular communication and a lack of recognition or thanks for the work that was being undertaken. Emails I sent were ignored or left unanswered for several days in sharp contrast to the humorous emails sent to ‘All Staff’ that were answered instantaneously with banal platitudes. Some team members were not contacted directly for 6 weeks. Left to my own devices, I worked hard to find my own direction and whilst I enjoyed the autonomy I found the lack of recognition, discussion and feedback from my team leader left me feeling my efforts were futile. When finally some tasks were delegated it was in a haphazard, unfinished and incomplete manner that led to duplication and omission. Organisation and the ability to delegate may not be the most glamorous aspects of leadership but they are fundamental.
I recognise I have a part to play in this dysfunctional dynamic; my inability to confront the situation with an open and honest conversation colludes with the behaviour and allows it to continue. However now is a difficult time to address anything without seeming churlish and egocentric; I am left with a seemingly impossible task: to pull together when there is no sense of togetherness; to follow where there is no clear path; to support when there is no shared understanding, belief or commitment. To be part of a team is to trust and be trusted, without trust there is no safety. For leaders to be able to inspire a sense of safety has never been more crucial.