Coaching Leadership (2nd edition), by Jan Robertson

Coaching Leadership (2nd edition), by Jan Robertson (Education)

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Coaching Leadership is about building leadership capacity in individuals, and in institutions, through enhancing professional relationships. It is based on the importance of maximising potential, and harnessing the ongoing commitment and energy needed to meet personal and professional goals.

This book is for anyone interested in developing leadership—their own and others. It is for school leaders wanting to reflect on their own leadership, those working in professional development, and teachers thinking about how they can more effectively facilitate learning. It aims to get educators working with each other as coaches and mentors, creating deep learning relationships within professional practice.         

From: Coaching Leadership (2nd edition), by Jan Robertson

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter overview

This chapter begins by defining leadership coaching as presented in this book. It outlines the reasons why this form of coaching is essential in the current education context and from there moves to an overview of various international leadership development ideas and theories. The chapter then traces the empirical research underpinning the development of the coaching model documented in this book and the key principles and ideas upon which it is based. The chapter concludes by describing the three research studies that produced the model.

What is coaching and why coaching?

Coaching defined

Coaching, as presented in this book, is a special, sometimes reciprocal, relationship between (at least) two people who work together to set professional goals and achieve them. The term depicts a learning relationship where participants are open to new learning, engage together as professionals equally committed to facilitating one another’s leadership learning, development and wellbeing (both cognitive and affective), and thereby gain a greater understanding of professionalism and the work of professionals.

Dialogue is the essence of coaching and the concurrent improvement of practice. Leaders elect to be coached because they want to improve their practice on an ongoing basis. The coaching model in this book assumes that coaching partners believe they will gain equal, but different, benefits from working with each other as they work to develop and implement their professional and personal goals—goals that are directed towards transformative changes in themselves and their respective institutions.

Underlying premises

Several premises inform the definition of coaching. The first is that educational leaders are often teachers by preparation, and so effective leadership development should include many of the principles that underpin effective teacher development.

The second premise is that professional learning should be a lifelong process. Although leaders may be at different stages of their careers, all need ongoing opportunities to renew, refresh and redirect their educational leadership practice. New expectations and roles necessitate this: the only constant in education, after all, is change. There will always be a need for leaders to change direction—to branch out into new areas of development. New leaders, moreover, need to be able to embrace change for the possibilities and opportunities it can bring. All educators have the responsibility to keep on learning throughout their career.

The third premise is that people who are influential in education should focus, as their main priority, on educational leadership—the leadership that improves teaching and learning. Thrupp and Willmott (2003) describe this focus as “critical leadership”, where there is not only reflection on learning but also a “public commitment to doing things differently” (p. 180) and “reflection on wider issues of social structure and politics” (p. 181). This stance requires continual critique of the role and practice of leadership in learning as well as articulation of the dilemmas and tensions faced within that context.

A fourth premise is that effort to link theory and research to the study of issues relating to the first three premises and their leadership practices is the key to successful leadership development, which is why coaching provided by practitioners and academic specialists working in partnership can be very effective. The coaching peers/pairs provide each other with professional feedback and vicarious learning through the observation necessary for leadership development. The academic professional provides the coaching partners with challenges, critical perspectives, skills and theories that support and challenge their developing coaching practices. There must be challenge if the professional relationship that coaching partners develop is to serve an educative purpose. The partners also need to be supported and encouraged if changes in behaviour are to occur. Outside perspectives are thus paramount in bringing effective change to leaders’ practice. I explore this facilitative role in greater depth in Chapter 10.

New leaders for new times

In 2005, an increased interest among academic theorists internationally in leadership development and coaching led to coaching being hailed as worthy of respect. Today, coaching has become more mainstream in policy and practice in many education systems, and it’s an area now recognised as worthy of the attention it has always deserved (Fullan, 2014). This interest has had particular resonance in New Zealand, where the changes brought about by policy developments in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to a focus on self-management of educational institutions and created particular challenges for leadership. The time was right to begin to explore the use of a coaching model that could help develop and support this new leadership.

New Zealand was the first (and perhaps sole) country in the world to move to full-scale decentralisation of educational provision across all sectors. The advent of self-management in New Zealand required a new type of leader and new ways of developing the skills he or she would need. More specifically, the country needed educational leaders who could

  • build capacity and commitment;
  • build strong relationships and partnerships, within and between schools;
  • focus on learning;
  • understand the change process; and
  • see the importance of finding new approaches to “doing” and “being”.

As Caldwell (2002, p. 843) observed, the need since that time has been for “new approaches to professionalism [that] will challenge the modest levels of knowledge and skill that sufficed in the past, with a vision for values-centred, outcomes-oriented, data-driven and team-focused approaches that matches or even exceeds that of the best of medical practice.” For Gronn (2002), “designer leadership development” (his term) based on competencies and standards will not create the types of leaders needed today, for much the same reason articulated by Lupton (2004, p. 31), who contends that “the wide variation between [institutions] … may give rise for differentiated strategies” rather than to a one-size-fits-all approach effected through the development of leadership competencies devoid of context. Because the context in which leadership operates markedly influences how that leadership is exercised, development and support initiatives need to focus on the local indigenous context—nationally, regionally and institutionally. This focus is not always the case in leadership development initiatives around the world.

The need for relevance and challenge

Essentially, if we are to acknowledge the reality and context of leaders’ work, then we must establish the type of professional development that will support these professionals’ daily practice. It’s important that leaders can see the direct relevance of their professional learning to their practice. Development activities far removed from the reality of leaders’ work serve no useful purpose. Educational leaders need to be working with the people, issues and concerns they face daily if they are to fully appreciate the need for and the relevance of change and innovation.

“I can honestly say that I have never, through any appraisal system or professional development, been challenged in the ways that I was last year. This was a direct result of my coach’s ability to ask purposeful reflective questions.”

Often missing from the theory on effective professional development is how leaders can put professional development in place that contains all the principles identified as important. How do we get those in education to see that change and development in their leadership behaviour is necessary and important? The answer is, as the above definition of coaching implies, challenge. Leaders must be challenged to understand and reflect on how changing their practice will make a difference. Peer coaching provides that challenge, and even more so when coaching partners share their perspectives with other such partnerships in learning communities. The variety of perspectives, the development of activities and skills and the presence of support all serve as professional development opportunities that enhance coaching relationships.

The leadership development context today

Reconceptualisations

In 1981, when the Harvard Graduate School of Education opened its Harvard Principals’ Center, the USA became one of the first countries in the world to recognise the need for formal leadership development. A decade later, New Zealand opened its first leadership centre at the University of Waikato. Among the governments worldwide that moved forward with a national policy for leadership development, England’s took a particularly strong lead with the establishment in 2000 of the country’s National College for School Leadership, now called the National College for Teaching and Leadership. A key focus of the National College in those early years was learning-centred leadership and personalised development (Southworth, 2002). A study of 15 countries at that time showed many mandatory or quasi-mandatory programmes developing throughout Europe, Asia, Australasia and North America (Huber, 2003). Today, leadership centres can be found in many more countries around the world; Lithuania, Hong Kong and Norway are just a few of them.

These centres represent a giant step forward from the early 1990s when interest in school leadership preparation and development was of “relatively little interest” outside the USA (Hallinger, 2003). The programmes have also shown major paradigm shifts in leadership development, particularly over the last two decades. While these initiatives have moved a long way from the early days of clinical supervision models (Goldhammer, 1969; Joyce & Showers, 1982), certain elements and key principles of professional learning have survived the test of time (Joyce & Showers, 2002).

Although some policy-makers still tend to favour “informed prescription” of leadership development curricula (Barber, 2002), the education profession now places greater emphasis on initiatives such as learning communities (see, for example, Stoll & Bolam, 2005), coaching and mentoring (e.g., Aas & Vavik, 2015; Tschannen-Moran & Tschannen-Moran, 2010), inquiry learning and networks (e.g., Timperley, Kaser, & Halbert 2014), leadership learning initiatives focused on building human capital in individuals and in institutions (Hargreaves & Fullan, 2012), the self-awareness associated with social and emotional intelligence (Goleman & Senge, 2014) and “data-literate” and evidence-based leadership (Earl & Katz, 2002). In so doing, members of that profession have enhanced their (and other educational stakeholders’) belief in “informed professional judgement” (Barber, 2002).

A number of associations and journals continue to focus solely on school effectiveness and improvement. One such professional association is the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement, with its flagship journal School Effectiveness and School Improvement (SESI). Some of these associations have added “leadership” to their name to signify a change of emphasis (e.g., BELMAS, which stands for the British Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society, and NZEALS, that is, the New Zealand Educational Administration and Leadership Society). Similarly, many academic journals now focus solely on the theory and practice of leadership. To date, two editions of the International Handbook of Educational Leadership and Administration (see, for example, Leithwood & Hallinger, 2002) have honoured and validated leadership thinking from around the world.

The past two decades have also seen a reconceptualisation of leadership. Sergiovanni (1992) and Fullan (2003a) have advanced our understanding of moral and authentic leadership, while Strachan (1999) and Starratt (2004) have looked respectively at critical leadership for social justice and spirituality in leadership. Gronn (2003) and Thrupp’s (2004) call for a move away from “designer models of leadership development” to a more critical focus has been accompanied by calls for cross-cultural and boundary-breaking leadership (Robertson & Webber, 2002; Shields, 2002; Walker & Dimmock, 2002). Leadership for learning has also been a key focus (Townsend & MacBeath, 2011) as has the leader as learner (Robertson, 2013).

Hallinger (2011) and Robinson, Hohepa, and Lloyd (2009) have since published syntheses of international research on the influence of school leadership. Dempster, Lovett, and Flückiger (2011), Muijs et al. (2014) and Timperley, Wilson, Barrar, and Fung (2007) have also published syntheses of international research on teacher effectiveness and professional learning. Syntheses such as these, and others, have informed our collective co-construction of knowledge about leadership learning and teacher change and given us a much better understanding internationally of this area.

Key principles and ideas

Reciprocity, structure and support

Different coaching models abound, so it’s important when developing coaching relationships to reiterate and maintain the principles underlying the model. The seminal work of Cochran-Smith and Lytle (1993) is reflected in many of the principles developed through the coaching research in this book, which include or focus on:

  • the legitimation and validation of educators’ practice;
  • the development of theory by practitioners;
  • the informing and changing of practice;
  • the importance of operating at the interface of theory and practice;
  • the need to provide support and challenge for changes in practice;
  • the need to set up a structure that will help educators become more self-directed in their professional learning;
  • the development of a model that any leader can use anywhere and in whatever context;
  • a belief in “educators as knowers”—as theory-makers;
  • a belief in leaders as lifelong learners; and
  • a desire to alter the traditional relationships between professionals, between teachers and students, and among educational institutions involved in learning partnerships.

Several key ideas also inform the model in this book:

1. The process is dynamic, meeting the changing needs of and resulting in new learning for each person. In this way, it’s also a reciprocal learning partnership.

2. The coach is the facilitator of the learning process, not the “teacher” of how something should or could be done, unless invited.

3. Instead of being positioned as the expert, the coach is a “learner” in the process. Coaches take their expertise into the relationship and acknowledge their partner’s expertise as they together construct shared knowledge.

4. The coached person takes responsibility for his or her own professional learning and sets the agenda and goals for the coaching sessions.

5. The partners have a good understanding of each other’s role and the social, cultural and political context within which they both work.

6. The coaching relationship takes time to develop effectively and sustain, with educational change, innovation and improvement occurring over time.

7. The coaching partners require the interpersonal, communication and coaching skills to work together in different ways.

The role of the coach

Both the person doing the coaching and the person being coached must be taught the skills of coaching and should discuss the principles behind these. When two people in a coaching relationship both know how to coach, coaching is easier, yet schools often want to develop only those individuals they select to be coaches. It’s therefore important that the coaches of each partnership not only empower the coached to make their own decisions about their leadership practice but also are overt about the coaching skills in action. Coaches don’t tell leaders who are being coached how they should lead but rather assist them to reflect critically on their practice so they can make informed decisions about their leadership. The responsibility for learning is then left in the hands of each leader. Leaders who have been well coached in how best to work with their coaching partners advance their respective professional development and offer supervision and oversight of each other’s practice.

Executive coaching, life coaching and personal coaching—all prevalent in the literature today—are at times conducted by coaches with little, if any, experience of working within the context of the person they are coaching. In this book, coaching is seen as a reciprocal process, conducted by partners who are from—or who have come from—similar positions or roles, and who are, to all intents, equal within the coaching relationship. Coaching partners bring to the relationship not only knowledge of the context in question and different strengths, expertise and wisdom, but also, and more importantly, different perspectives on and an outside (albeit perhaps less subjective) view of a leadership situation.

The coaching relationship is dynamic and constantly changing to meet the needs of the people involved. And even though a coaching relationship may not always be truly reciprocal, it can be bi-directional because both partners gain in different ways, especially if they’re engaged in different roles, such as leadership coach, education consultant, facilitator or adviser, or principal. Such a relationship can also be effective in terms of critiquing the coaching practice if it’s established on the principles set out in this book.

“Although coaching can make you feel extremely uncomfortable at times, I truly believe it leads to a high level of personal growth for both the parties. It’s great for encouraging a higher level of thinking, enhances connections and leads to a feeling of self-satisfaction, through effective questioning and listening.”

The development of the coaching model

The model of leadership coaching in this book has evolved over more than two decades of my research and development in this field. Other research literature has also influenced the model’s development in the field. However, the three major pieces of research that had the greatest impact on the developing model are described in the following sections. The model is still evolving as I continue to research coaching practice (see, for example, Robertson & Earl, 2014) and participate with professional colleagues here and overseas in critical reflection focused on the process of coaching.

The first research study

A naturalistic qualitative study involving primary, intermediate and secondary school leaders during the first year of the Tomorrow’s Schools’ reforms to educational administration in New Zealand (Lange, 1988) was considered an important precursor to first understanding the role and needs of these leaders and second to identifying the most effective professional development for them during a time of major administrative and curriculum change. I spent one year shadowing 11 leaders from across the school system (primary, intermediate, secondary), in a cluster of schools in an urban environment. I interviewed each leader on at least three occasions, organised professional development activities for them, and then evaluated these experiences with them. The aim of this study was to develop some substantive theory about appropriate and effective educational leadership development.

The findings indicated that site-based professional development, which included outside perspectives (i.e., another person’s observation and views) on the concerns these leaders were experiencing at that time, was most valuable. This and other related research led me to conclude (Robertson, 1991a, p. 130) that leaders’ professional development should:

  • acknowledge the realities of leaders’ daily practice;
  • acknowledge the philosophic, values and visionary elements in leaders’ work;
  • offer opportunities for values awareness and resolving dilemmas;
  • have a strong emphasis on educational leadership, that is, leadership centred on the quality of teaching and learning;
  • encourage critical reflective practice and experiential learning rather than offer a priori theoretical or prescribed models;
  • be needs-based, participatory and collaborative;
  • focus on problem posing as well as problem resolution;
  • be developmental over time, with that process leading to completed action;
  • emphasise interpersonal skills, such as communication, presentation skills and stress and time management;
  • acknowledge the needs of individuals for stimulation, freedom, creativity and fun;
  • offer a variety of delivery modes; and
  • be provided by people (often practitioners and consultants in partnership) who are credible within the field of education.

Two recommendations from this study had had a direct influence on the development of the coaching model:

1. Leaders need to experience professional development in critically reflective practice, and this practice needs to be formalised and structured through such initiatives as professional partnerships, learning and research communities, study groups and action learning sets.

2. Scholar–practitioners need to be made available as consultants to leaders to assist them with their professional development, to help them with problem posing, managing change and critiquing practice and political context, and to support them with education development generally. Consultants can come from the teaching profession—the untapped source of leadership development that Wadsworth (1990) described as a “pot of gold” in his article on the School Leaders Project.

Conversations that I had with two of the leaders who participated in the study were another major contributor to my thinking at this time. The first stated that there was nothing new in the professional development offerings and that during his career he’d been to everything available, or at least some form of it. He also said if the development didn’t correspond with a “hurt” or a need being experienced by leaders, then no matter how good it looked, or was, other more pressing factors within the institution would take precedence. It seemed obvious, then, that any professional development had to focus on leaders’ current leadership experience(s). The second leader had this to say: “What I would really like to do is … buddy with someone. They’d spend a day or two with me, and then I’d say, ‘Okay, warts and all, what can you see in here that I’m doing wrong? Tell me. What things do you like? What things am I doing that I could do better?’”

I realised that this type of coaching practice was generally missing from leadership development initiatives and that I needed to carry out a second study if I was to pursue this line of thought. However, it also seemed to me that I needed to move this second leader’s thinking away from having somebody else telling him what was wrong, to having him reflect on what might be wrong and what he might be able to do to improve the situation. This reflection and subsequent critical dialogue between the two leaders would allow him to engage more effectively in the vicarious learning he described.

The second research study

A national curriculum leadership development contract provided opportunity to trial the use of peer-assisted learning, of the type exemplified by Barnett (1990). This time round, 44 leaders from primary and secondary schools were selected from their individual applications to take part. Each participant was asked to “partner” another leader during a first group session, to set goals, engage in deep reflection and dialogue and focus on their leadership role when leading learning required by curriculum and programmes.

During each of four group sessions, conducted by a development team of 15 consultants and extending over an 18-month period, the partners worked together in pairs, using the skills of listening, reflective questioning and goal setting. (Strachan & Robertson, 1992, provide a fuller description of this process.) We asked the partners to think of ways of contacting each other and working together between these formal meeting times, which they did, to varying degrees. During these “in-between” times, the consultants also worked with each leader in his or her school and with the other teachers there.

The study involved over 50 hours of face-to-face data-gathering sessions (individual and group interviews and surveys) with the 44 leaders. During the study, the leaders also completed two individual surveys designed to monitor and evaluate the issues and successes the leaders personally experienced when working in their professional partnerships. Each leader also received five letters across the 18 months reminding them of goals set from group sessions and prompting them to initiate further action and reflection with their partner.

Data from the interviews, observation and surveys were shared with the leaders at the group sessions. This action research process assisted with clarification and validation of emerging findings, and it also intentionally influenced the continuing development process. At the end of the trial period, all data were further analysed for grounded theory development—a process described by Strauss and Corbin (1997)—to ascertain how the leaders had established and maintained successful professional partnerships throughout this time. In-depth interviews were then conducted with five volunteer participants whose coaching experiences had been relatively fulfilling but not without issues. The aim here was to further saturate the emerging themes from the data that would influence the selection and maintenance of the coaching partnerships in the third research study. This analysis took just over 60 hours.

The findings from this part of the study set the direction for the ensuing action research of the third study and firmed the principles of the coaching model presented in this book. The findings were as follows:

1. Leaders viewed the concept of learning partnerships favourably.

2. Leaders needed improved skill development to carry out the coaching processes effectively.

3. One year was insufficient for the coaching partnerships to develop fully.

4. Respect, honesty and trust were important elements of a successful partnership relationship.

5. Leaders needed more in-depth outside support to assist with critical reflection on leadership practice during the coaching process.

6. Regular, sustained contact between coaching partners was necessary.

7. Leaders considered lack of time for coaching an inhibiting factor.

8. Partnerships involving leaders from institutions of similar size and type benefited problem solving.

9. Engagement in group sharing and problem posing alongside the coaching processes benefited the participants’ leadership development by giving them a wider variety of perspectives and ideas.

The third research study

This third study was again qualitative, involving an action-researching community of 12 leaders and an academic researcher (myself). Over a period of three years, the leaders met regularly in their peer partnerships and as a group. I worked with them not only individually but also in their learning partnerships and when they were all together as a group. The 12 leaders began by setting goals. They then used their newly developed skills to observe, reflect on and provide evaluative feedback on their own and each other’s leadership practice.

A continuing influence on the development of the research and the eventual coaching model at this time was the exciting work in peer-assisted leadership development being conducted by Bruce Barnett, Ginny Lee and colleagues at the Far West Laboratory in San Francisco. Their earlier research (e.g., Barnett, 1990; Bossert, Dwyer, Rowan, & Lee, 1982; G. Lee, 1991, 1993; Lee & Barnett, 1994) also had a strong influence on my developing ideas, as did Kolb’s (1984) seminal work in experiential learning conducted several years previously on adult learning theory. Ginny Lee came to New Zealand and worked with the leaders during the early stages of the coaching in the third study.

By the mid-1990s, educational institutions had assumed even more responsibility for their own management. My aim in this third major study was to encapsulate in the coaching model a strategy of professional development that would assist educational leaders to:

  • conceptualise and implement new ideas and practices;
  • achieve strategic goals;
  • deal effectively with current issues and problems;
  • gain skills for deep reflection on practice;
  • develop strategies to cope with challenges; and
  • receive both support and challenge.

A coaching model was the obvious answer.

The research was therefore designed as a conscious effort not only to develop a theory of professional development for leaders but also, in so doing, to provide professional development that would help them understand and then change their situation at the time of the research. The underlying theoretical principle of praxis was embedded in and interwoven through my and the leaders’ methods: the developing findings influenced our practice at the time of the research and, consequently, how we worked with one another. The research was practical and based on the needs and concerns of the leaders involved. It was thus both a research and a development model.

The study comprised 18 months of data gathering and employed oral and written reflections, interactive interviewing, observations and examination of records. The findings were analysed using grounded theory techniques within the methodology of action research. The processes of action research accordingly became methods for both collecting and analysing data, with the leaders and me jointly involved in this process as a community of researchers (after Carr & Kemmis, 1986). During the data collection and analysis, the leaders helped me explain their situation and the dilemmas and tensions they faced during coaching and in their leadership practice.

All 12 leaders testified that the coaching assisted their professional and personal development in many ways. In the words of one of them: “This research has made me focus on my own educational leadership. It has led me through a series of processes, which have enabled me to reflect on and analyse my own actions. The research has made me take an in-depth look at my own leadership style and has given me the opportunity to observe others.”

The particular ways in which these leaders believed their involvement in the research had advantaged them fell into four major categories:

1. assisted educational leadership development—a focus on teaching and learning;

2. enabled critical reflection on practice;

3. increased professional interactions; and

4. established a structure (action research) for educational review and development.

Chapter 4 describes these findings in greater detail.

Main conclusion drawn from the research

The thesis that is presented in this book thus rests on learning gained from engagement with the educational leaders involved in the above and other research over the past two and a half decades as well as with many other leaders involved in development work. Their collective perception is that a model of professional development involving leadership coaching, set within a critical learning community and including support and challenge from an outside facilitator, can successfully provide the essential components of professional development in which praxis and transformative practice are the desired outcomes.

As an example of this approach, the leaders in the third study, when working together, created a mild disruption to their everyday practice, which led to opportunities for reflection on leadership practices. I (as a practitioner-scholar/researcher) also assisted in this intervention process. The combination of the two—support and challenge—was effective in enabling critical reflection on practice and subsequent changes in practice and systems.

Are the benefits ongoing?

Research on this model of coaching has produced empirical evidence time and time again that the participants find long-term benefit from it (see, for example, T. Lee, 2002; Robertson, 2004a, 2004b; Sutton, 2005, 2004b; Winters, 1996). The case studies in Chapter 11 of this book help to illustrate these benefits. They feature leaders who were introduced to the coaching model before 2005 and who have since continued work with and on it in their schools.

For leaders, coaching through professional partnerships is (in the short and long term):

  • an effective form of professional learning for transformative change in schools and education systems;
  • suitable for anyone in any educational sector;
  • practice based on sound research and development;
  • carried out “on site” and dealing with current leadership issues and concerns;
  • a chance to gain outside perspectives and feedback on practice;
  • an excellent role model for education learning in any institution;
  • a way of receiving affirmation for work well done;
  • an effective model for formative appraisal and the improvement of practice;
  • a way of seeing how leaders’ many tasks and interactions link together to form the “big picture”; and
  • a framework for all other professional development activities because it is ongoing.

The research also indicates that “one-off ” professional development sessions (e.g., a course or a conference) do little by themselves to change practice back at the workplace. Coaching provides a foundation for new growth and helps solidify ideas gained from other sources such as conferences, workshops and seminars.

When leaders are asked directly at the end of their coaching experience if they intend to continue with their present coach or to establish a different coaching relationship in the future, they give these types of response:

My present partnership will continue, as I believe we have both found it to our advantage. I’ve begun establishing another partnership with another leader in a much larger institution than mine and have found already that many issues are the same; [they] just involve differing numbers.
Yes, I will continue if my partner is willing … I will also seek other partners for different areas of expertise.
Probably not with the same one. Personalities are very different. I hold different values.
Yes, until the end of the year [as I retire then]. Next year, if it is at all possible, I would very much like to be able to do something similar—if only in a one-way manner, perhaps with a newly appointed leader somewhere!
I hope to keep working with [partner]. My [audit] is next term, and I have invited [partner] to join me.
Yes, we will! We’ve not only gained professionally but also get on well together—and like the same wines!

Comments like these indicate that the practice of coaching—even the idea of multiple coaches—can be well and truly institutionalised (Fullan, 1985) as an important part of leadership practice. If leaders don’t continue with formal regular coaching once their coaching facilitator is no longer working with them, they’ll still have in place the skills that enable them to be more reflective about their ongoing practice. Also, as a final point, leaders who experience coaching with their professional colleagues are generally no longer satisfied with less in-depth relationships with other colleagues and so are more likely to try to establish professional coaching relationships with them.

Summary of main points

  • Today’s education requires innovation and new approaches to learning.
  • The concept of leadership and its development continues to be debated internationally.
  • Coaching focuses on professional practice in context.
  • Coaching is a relationship between two (or more) people committed to establishing and implementing goals and working together to achieve them.
  • Coaching is most effective when coaches take a facilitative approach to learning and are open to new learning through the process.
  • Coaching supports the principles of lifelong learning, capacity building, and continual improvement.
  • Coaching is a dynamic process that develops uniquely to meet the changing needs of educational leaders.
  • Coaching equips leaders with new professional ways of working with colleagues.
  • The coaching model presented in this book is based on empirical research with leaders in many educational contexts and across many cultures and sectors. It continues to evolve.

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