Why authenticity is key to great school leadership

The Education for the Soul Conference will allow headteachers to explore how they can lead with greater authenticity

There’s plenty of advice out there about what makes a great school leader, from textbooks to certifications and seminars.

Often the advice focuses around what leaders should do, how they should behave and highlights what are deemed to be outstanding leadership examples.

However, the more I’ve worked with school leaders the more it has become apparent that there is no one-size-fits-all model of leadership.

What’s more, I’ve since learned that great leadership cannot be reduced to a matter of technique or style. Rather, it comes from the very identity and integrity of every individual who has chosen to take on the mantle of school leadership.

As such, rather than our current education system trying to mould our heads into the leaders it thinks they ought to be, I believe we should be inspiring them to lead from within, from the very heart of who they are through ways which tap into their own unique gifts, values and internal sense of purpose.

This is important because:

1. Authentic school leaders are more able to make wise decisions

Authentic school leaders know what their values and purposes are, and every action and decision is made with these in mind.

For authentic school leaders, decision-making becomes easier as the leader knows what can’t be done, what has to be done and how to act in alignment with what they stand for. Moreover, they also have the courage to do what they believe is necessary or right, even when it is uncomfortable and/or difficult to do so.

2. Authentic leaders create environments built on trust

When leaders are authentic, they not only trust themselves more, but they also learn how to build deeper and more trusting relationships with others. You may have noticed this yourself; leaders who are comfortable in their own skin, make it easy for others to trust them and feel comfortable in their presence.

Whereas with leaders for whom the opposite is true, relationships are often tenuous and can be a reflection of the leaders’ own inner state. When staff and teachers are able to see a person that they can relate to, who is consistent in their behaviours and the application of their values, trust becomes part of the glue that brings a greater degree of cohesiveness to relationships.

3. Authentic leaders are more likely to stay in the profession

It’s no secret that over the last few years, there has been a growing headteacher recruitment and retention crisis with reports now suggesting that English schools may face a shortage of up to 19,000 heads by 2022.

The unique daily challenges of being a headteacher, the high personal accountability, excessive workload, all within the context of shrinking school budgets have almost certainly contributed to this.

However, I believe the emphasis on data, results and education policies such as academisation and free schools etc has also played its part.

Heads that I speak to on a regular basis are increasingly concerned that values more akin to the business world have begun to impact on the policies and practices in our schools today.

Meanwhile, many school leaders have had to find ways to marry their principles, with those of a system that frequently appears to operate with values that are diametrically opposed to their own.

If they are unable to do so, leaders can begin to feel disconnected with the reasons that originally brought them into the profession and bereft of the passion required to keep going amidst the testing challenges of the role.

However, authentic leaders – because they know who they are, what they stand for and keep their WHY in clear sight – are more able to sustain their passion and motivation, even through tough times and the unique demands of the job. In doing so, they give themselves the best chance of staying in the profession for the long haul.


If you’re interested in exploring how you can lead with greater authenticity and ensure you stay connected to your values, vision and purpose, on 17 October, Viv Grant and Integrity Coaching will be hosting the Education for the Soul Conference around the topic of ‘Inspiring Authentic School Leadership’.

If you’re interested in attending, Integrity Coaching (in partnership with Independent Education Today) are now offering an exclusive 10% discount on all ticket purchases to IE readers using the discount code ‘EDU4THESOUL2019’.

To get yours, visit www.integritycoaching.co.uk/conference