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Learning about leading in a pandemic

13th May 2021

Learning about leading in a pandemic


Two years ago, when Corona was a Mexican beer, my co-Founder Paula and I were just starting to scope out a new leadership solution: matching school leaders and business leaders in a partnership where both leaders grow. Our aims for this were two fold: 

  1. To provide leadership development for school leaders in schools serving disadvantaged communities because it’s a tough job and the more support they can get the better
  2. To shine a light on how amazing our school leaders are because it is such a challenging role and they often get bashed from all angles

Our pilot programme started just before the pandemic hit, and we’ve now created 45 partnerships giving us a unique insight into leadership during the past 12 months


We're about to start our sixth cohort and as we do so we’re reflecting on what we’ve learned so far and how our programme is changing as a result.


What we’ve learned

The four main learnings that are really developing our thinking are:

  1. Leading through a pandemic has been tough: this is true for business leaders as well as school leaders, and it has been particularly challenging for school leaders with the 1000+ directives from the Department of Ed to contend with - making space for reflection and having a safe place to vent and explore solutions has been hugely welcomed by our participants.
  2. School leaders and business leaders have more in common than they expect: leading virtual teams, coping with constant change, having difficult conversations, and communicating effectively as things change quickly - these are all challenges that our partnerships have found in common that they have explored and supported each other with, and both parties have really appreciated that external support and validation.
  3. Mutuality is key and language is important: both Sonia Blandford and Karen Edge have been fantastic sounding boards over the course of the past year and have urged us to consider the language of mentoring as it creates a hierarchy rather than a sense of mutuality – we have seen this play out in some of our partnerships and we are changing our terminology to make sure that this is seen as a learning experience for both partners, not one being superior to the other.
  4. The importance of inspiring each other and lifting each other up: we called our programme Inspiring Partnerships as we’d hoped our leaders would inspire each other. The feeling of being inspired has been consistent feedback from our participants and has worked both ways. We’ve also been inspired by our organisational partners, and especially Julie Gibbings-Garrett and KPMG, and Anton Francic and Hackney Education for their belief in us and for their incredible support which has helped shape our programme in such positive ways.


Get involved!

As we look to our next cohorts starting in October, we are working to create more of a sense of mutual support rather than hierarchy, and are actively seeking people and organisations – both businesses and schools – who can see the potential for learning across sectors. 


It’s the best of all worlds – you will get tremendous professional development from working with someone outside your sector, and you’ll be bringing those sectors closer together by establishing relationships and understanding across business and school with improved understanding and respect. 


And that can only be a good thing for young people as they move from education into work.

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