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Stedelijk Onderwijs Antwerpen prepares prospective directors for a leadership role

The question: How to prepare prospective directors in their role as leader

The result?

Project at a glance:

  • The question: How to prepare prospective directors in their role as leader
  • The route: 2 days of coaching and situational leadership as part of a broader development process
  • The result: future directors are better prepared for their role as leader

The story:

Managing a school is a wonderful challenge. While teachers possess the right competencies to deal with young people, the position of school director requires very different competencies. The way in which they communicate with teachers and other stakeholders, elaborate and express their vision, and their ability to convince people to be part of the ongoing changes are important skills.

Only a handful of prospective directors have the required competencies. They will be allowed to take part in a training programme aimed at mastering the required leadership competencies and attitudes. Kris Vanhoof, Els Van Laecke and Eva Pareyn developed a varied and practical training package in cooperation with Sascha Luyckx — Coordinator of Talent Development & Communication at the Service and Coordination Centre of Urban Education. Some 60 prospective directors were given the opportunity to further hone their leadership skills, and to prepare for their role as a leader.

The development programme consists of six modules. Antwerp City Education (Stedelijk Onderwijs Antwerpen) was responsible for teaching four modules:

  • Intake interviews whereby HR mainly enquired about drive and motivation.
  • Self-assessment of personal leadership competencies, core qualities and points for improvement.
  • Workshops on the director's role and the organisation's value and vision.
  • Brushing up on presentation and improvisational skills.

The Coaching Square, in cooperation with Jobpunt Vlaanderen - a selection agency for the Flemish government - was responsible for giving two modules:

  • Coaching leadership – focusing on clear agreements on goals and stimulating methods of taking action (GROW model), which replaces a more directive style of leadership.
  • Situational leadership – we asked the participants to complete a questionnaire on education. Based on concrete situations, they were able to indicate their reactions and provide insight into their natural leadership style. Different styles of leadership were examined during the training.

To accommodate the participants' busy schedules, the two training days were given on a Saturday. The following topics were discussed in the three groups: applying the GROW model of coaching leadership, establishing a positive connection during a conversation; a structured approach to starting, leading and ending discussions; active listening; insight into leadership styles and how to adapt them to different situations; and giving and receiving development-oriented and positive feedback.
The participants acquired concrete learning points through a carefully-chosen mix of theory and practical exercises, adapted to the field of education.

A programme with tangible success!

Several people who participated in our programme have become a director of one of the schools of Stedelijk Onderwijs Antwerpen. This is a great result of this wonderful cooperation. The new directors now possess all the essential tools to manage both colleagues and individuals.

We are extremely proud that we have also been chosen as next year's partner for the development of future directors of the Stedelijk Onderwijs Antwerpen.

The participants speak:

"Generally speaking, people are not very enthusiastic about role playing games/simulating real-life situations beforehand. Nevertheless, it proved to be very informative. Theory is one half of the picture. It is not always self-evident when it is applied in practice - especially in irregular situations."

"I was very impressed that — after encountering resistance during the first session — the trainer changed her approach. Every participant was respected as an individual, which ultimately led to mutual respect."

"I learned a lot: practical models: active listening, back tracking, feedback, GROW phases and the different styles involved. It was very interesting and gave plenty of food for thought."

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