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  • Writer's pictureBrad Gay

We didn't start the fire...

Last week I was working with a group of Principals and I gave them the following quote:

“You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within.”


There was the usual ten second silence as they all thought deeply, then one said, “I agree with this quote but there’s a deeper problem here.”

Intrigued, I asked them to tell me more about this problem.

They said, “In the last few years the combustible material within our teachers has been dampened to the point where you’re lucky to get a spark let alone a fire.”

Another Principal chimed in,”It’s also hard to lead it if you don’t feel it yourself!”

I then asked, "Is this because of increased compliance?"

Surprisingly, “No” was the reply.

They went on to explain that they felt the causes were:

  • Load of an overcrowded curriculum

  • Ever increasing needs of difficult children

  • No money

  • Parents with high expectations

  • The constant struggle to meet their own expectations.

Principals lead because they believe they can make a difference in the lives of their students and the staff around them. So what happens when you feel you can’t make the difference you had hoped? Apathy? Despair? Disengagement?

I decided to change the angle. So you're leaders what does it look like when these problems have solutions? How can you create a culture where these problems are minimised? How can you shout so positively as a leader that the problems a drowned out?

As a leader you have control over certain aspects. Take the over crowded curriculum for example.You have control over the curriculum so rationalise what can be dropped or managed in a way that creates curriculum coverage in multiple areas.

Leadership provides skills that enable principals to:

  • Minimise stress

  • Manage expectations

  • Know your staff

  • Rationalise work loads

  • Delegate tasks but not responsibility

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