How leaders can thrive in uncertain times

How leaders can thrive in uncertain times

Whether it’s preparing students for a rapidly changing world, addressing social inequalities or supporting the ongoing development of educators, there’s no denying that school leaders are facing significant challenges in 2023.

Every leader wants to be the steady hand guiding their schools through turbulent times, but doing this successfully often depends on whether they’re equipped with the right knowledge and skills to effectively manage change.

On Tuesday May 30, 2023 at 11:00am, AEST The Educator and Deakin University will be presenting a webinar, ‘Preparing educational leaders for leadership in challenging times’. Drawing from a wealth of educational experience, several influential speakers will share their collective wisdom to help leaders develop the knowledge and skills they need to lead their organisations in a time of uncertainty.

Preparing principals to lead

Speaking to The Educator ahead of the webinar, Dr Ben Arnold, Senior Lecturer, Education Leadership at Deakin University, said education leaders must deal with significant challenges associated with leading learning organisations.

“This includes the need to meet the needs of their local communities and ensure that students are prepared to contend with rapidly changing broader social, political, technological and economic changes,” he said.

“Leaders must now work to create learning opportunities that prepare students for an uncertain future, address widespread social inequalities, and meet the needs of diverse student populations.”

Also key, said Dr Arnold, is supporting the ongoing learning and development of educators through grounded and relevant learning experiences, and drawing on internal and external expertise to drive improvement in accordance with local needs and priorities.

“To be prepared to meet these challenges, leaders need more than administrative capacity and expertise as instructional leaders,” he explained.

“Leaders need the ability to understand the needs of their communities, to redesign organisations, manage sustainable change, organise meaningful and impactful adult professional learning and support rigorous learning opportunities that meet the needs of all students.”

Dr Arnold said the following key principles are an important feature of leadership preparation and development:

  • Rich engagement with contemporary issues: Address the current challenges of education leadership through the latest research and real world case studies/scenarios.
  • Ethical and intellectual development: Develop their own leadership frameworks through the exploration of contemporary theory, research and professional expertise about leadership policy, evaluation, learning and improvement.
  • Learning in practice: develop praxis through linking theoretical, ethical, social and political understandings to lead in educational contexts.
  • Applied Learning: from a position of ethical leadership, evaluate and select leadership strategies, policies, theories, frameworks and apply them in your contexts and settings.

Equity-oriented leadership is key

Dr Arnold said the continuing fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic has created “a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous educational environment”.

“For principals this has increased work intensification as they are managing additional issues such as unprecedented workforce pressures through teacher attrition, reconnecting students with their schools, and focusing on ameliorating learning loss for some students as a result of the pandemic,” he said.

“More than ever, a focus on ethical and socially just leadership is critical in addressing some of these issues. Leaders and aspiring leaders need opportunities to apply their knowledge through applied and in-service learning.”

Dr Arnold said equity-oriented leadership has the potential to improve principal’s ability to meet the needs of diverse learners.

“Through applied learning and critical reflection, leaders can understand how bias and attitudes related to class, gender, race, disability and other social factors impact on teaching and learning and consider how to develop more socially just approaches to education.”