Underpinning Principles: Courageous leadership

Having courage comes from both self-confidence and inner strength often derived from a strong sense of moral purpose combined with innate self-belief.
Buck, 2016, p42

Courageous leadership within our Trust is characterised by:

Ethical Approaches

All leaders within the Trust consistently model and demonstrate personal characteristics and virtues as set out within the Ethical Leadership Framework (ASCL et al; 2019).

  • Leaders are trustworthy and reliable
  • They hold trust on behalf of children and should be beyond reproach
  • Leaders use wisdom, experience, knowledge and insight
  • They demonstrate moderation and self-awareness and act calmly and rationally. They serve their school and the Trust with propriety and good sense
  • Leaders demonstrate respect, generosity of spirit, understanding and good temper
  • They give difficult messages humanely where conflict or challenge is unavaoidable
  • Leaders are fair and work for the good of all children
  • They seek to enable all children to lead, happy and fulfilling lives
  • Leaders are conscientious and dutiful
  • They demonstrate humility and self-control, supporting the structures, conventions and rules which safeguard quality
  • Leaders work courageously in the best interest of children and young people
  • They protect children’s safety and their right to a broad, effective and creative education, holding each to account with courage
  • Leaders are optimistic, positive and encouraging

Despite difficulties and pressures they continue to develop excellent education to change the world for the better.


Leaders do not work in isolation they see themselves as having a bigger role than within their own schools. They value collaboration with others and recognise the significant impact it can have on their own practice, the practice others and consequently outcomes for children.  “Great leaders collaborate together with a shared set of values, goals and ways of working, there is no limit on outcomes for pupils, so long as leaders can take their agreed shared approaches and modify them to suit their situation.” (Buck, 2016, p 10) Leaders consciously seek peer support and challenge and actively model this approach. Data and contextual information is shared openly and used to effectively support collaborative decision making.

Moral Purpose

Leaders have a commitment to making a positive impact on the lives and outcomes for all children. They believe in the potential of each child, and strive to remove barriers to achievement, in an environment conducive to learning and personal growth. Leaders model and share their moral purpose consistently through word, action and behaviour. Clear links are made to the vision and values of the Trust. “Moral purpose cannot just be stated it must be accompanied by strategies for realising it, and those strategies are the leadership actions that energize  people to pursue a desired goal.” (Fullan, 2004 p 19,)

A Team Ethic

Leaders demonstrate resonance. They “are not apart from the rest, not above nor separate from the many, but among them and working with them generating waves of impact and activity.” (NCSL, 2012, p8) Leaders strive to create a climate of openness and trust, where staff feel confident to share knowledge, seek support, challenge each other and engage in professional debate. Leaders recognise the value of individual expertise and specialist knowledge, supporting them to take the lead on relevant activities, projects and strategic developments. Successes and achievements are celebrated, developing a climate of recognition and reward. Leaders recognise success is a result of team effort, not personal achievement.

Vision, Values and Strategy

Leaders share a clear vision and common purpose underpinned by moral purpose. A well-developed set of goals map the development journey, which is shared with all staff. Aligned approaches and pedagogies support collaboration at all levels. Innovation and creativity is encouraged and leaders use an evidence based approach in order to carefully calculate and consider risk. “Good leaders do not focus on their achievements but on being ambitious for their organisation.” (Buck, 2016, p43)

Managing Change

Leaders recognise the challenge that change brings and how this will be different for all staff. Proposed changes are discussed openly and professional debate encouraged. Leaders communicate regularly through a variety of means and with clarity. They provide the support (human and physical) needed to effect change successfully. Time is given to embed changes in the long term and to review and reflect on impact. “Leadership is not mobilizing others to solve problems we already know how to solve, but helping them to confront problems that have not yet been addressed successfully.” (Fullan, 2014, p2)

Identifying Talent

Leaders are committed to identifying and growing future leaders. Looking for those teachers who are ‘leaders of learning’ (Fink, 2010), who innovate and learn from reflection and research and are motivated to share excellence in practice with others. Leaders provide encouragement, support and trust for staff to lead, innovate and take responsibility for relevant projects and activities preparing them for progression. They act as role models and enable expertise to be shared at all levels through effective coaching, mentoring and joint practice development. Career development opportunities across the Trust are shared with staff, and advancement encouraged.

Culture and Climate

Leaders aim to create a positive school climate where every individual is valued, cared for and respected. Priority is given to the health, well-being and welfare of all individuals within the school community. Leaders understand the centrality of culture and climate on enhancing curriculum innovation, teaching and learning and professional development. They promote a collective sense of purpose, professional dialogue, and a shared responsibility for children’s learning, progress and outcomes.

Performance Management

Leaders establish a positive culture for performance management that is linked to school and Trust improvement priorities. They promote a rigorous and systematic approach that is positive, constructive and supportive, underpinned by trusting and respectful relationship. Strong levels of trust and respectful relationships are preconditions for successful school improvement initiatives (Kaser and Halbert 2009, p43). The leaders use the performance management cycle to prompt highly focussed reflection and professional dialogue which leads to innovation, risk taking to teaching and learning strategies. Good and outstanding practice is shared and celebrated.

Responsible Growth

Leaders have a clear vision for the growth of the MAT and understood recent research regarding responsible growth including that regarding geographical proximity and alignment. Leaders understand that MATs provide their schools and the teachers and leaders within them a supportive network that enables extra capacity and shared best practice through the sharing of resources, practice and leadership. Principles, values and strategies for school improvement are understood and shared with all stakeholders. These principles and values are at the core of any decision regarding further growth.


Leaders and members of the Governance Community work together to ensure that the education provided has a positive impact on all pupils. By keeping each school’s strategy and school improvement plan under review, members of the Governance Community are well placed to understand strengths and areas for development, the progress being made towards strategic priorities, areas where expected progress is not being made and the plans in place to address improvements needed – in the quality of education, deployment of resources and the culture of safeguarding.

ASCL et al (2019)  Navigating the Educational Moral Maze.  The Final Report of the Ethical Leadership Commission. Leicester: ASCL
Buck, A  (2016) Leadership Matters. How all Leaders at all levels can create great schools. Woodbridge: John Catt
Fink, D (2010) The Succession Challenge. London: Sage
Fullan, M (2004) Leading in Culture of change. San Francisco: Wiley and Son
Kaser, L  and  Halbert, J (2009) Leadership Mindsets.  Oxford: Routledge
NCSL (2012) Leading staff and effective teams.  Nottingham:  NCSL