Lessons in Leadership
My 15 year old son Jack has just been permanently excluded from school. I never thought I would feel okay about that, let alone share it with the world. I am doing it because I admire the head teacher who has guided us through a potentially very negative experience in a positive way and I want to explore the leadership lessons here.
Jack has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He’s a bright, articulate, likeable and entertaining boy who can charm the birds out of the trees. He is also disruptive, impulsive and aggressive, which, at well over 6ft tall, can be seriously intimidating.
“Mr X. He’s a legend”
So what did this Head teacher do that resulted in me being so appreciative of his support and Jack calling him “a legend” and swearing never to hear a word said against him?
- He created a culture at the school where the teachers’ remained positive about Jack and didn’t lose sight of his ADHD. That’s no mean feat. If he had a broken leg everyone would remember and keep it in mind. With ADHD it’s easy to forget and judge him as purely badly behaved.
- As the situation escalated he took a personal interest in Jack and for many weeks, saw him every day, to go through his targets and report card. A major commitment for a head teacher.
- He was always clear and succinct about expectations and targets, ensured Jack had understood these, and involved both Jack and me every step of the way.
- When it became clear that the strategies weren’t changing anything, he was able to step back, and consider the best options for everyone. Jack now has a permanent place at a specialist unit with an almost one to one teacher – student ratio, which will serve Jack’s needs better. The Head didn’t let pride or ego get in the way, even though he said he felt he’d failed Jack in some ways
- Finally, and from our perspective, most importantly, he visited us at home to finish his current contact with Jack on a positive note. He again emphasised all Jacks strengths and what he had enjoyed about having him in school. He then gave him a nicely wrapped present of a pen, and explained what it meant about communication, believing in himself and staying in touch.
I don’t know what Jack will make of his life but I do know that this was a significant moment that he’ll always remember. It speaks volumes that the man who made some really tough decisions over the last couple of years, decisions that made Jack really angry at times, has built such a good relationship that Jack is in no doubt about the fairness, and commitment with which he’s been treated.
My questions to you are:
- How are you building that level of respect within your team?
- How do you maintain good relationships whilst dealing with tough decisions and situations?