A School For Tomorrow
THE PATHWAY TO EXCELLENCE | LEAD | FORMAL LEADERSHIP

FORMAL LEADERSHIP IN A WORK CONTEXT

We need to locate our capacity to contribute within formal leadership in a work context – how we provide service and leadership to our employers, colleagues and associates within an employment setting.

When we are employed to do a job, we must make sure that we do the job that is expected of it and us. This is the starting point for any leadership role in an organisation. While the expectations may change over time as circumstances change, the original brief for our role has a powerful effect on how people will see our leadership and its success. Whatever else we bring to the role and however else it is adapted to the way in which the organisation develops, we must be clear about what people expect of us and then make sure we do this. This means we need to be very clear about what we are stepping into before we take on a role. There is little to be lost about taking the time immediately before we accept a role ensuring that our employers and ourselves are completely aligned and that we have something in writing that creates certainty about this.


When we step into the role, some people will view us with some unease or even hostility to begin with. The entry of a new person into a new role will have an impact on their lives and their uncertainty about this may well affect how they see us to begin with. It may well be that we need to earn their respect before they will give us their respect. This is normal. We should not walk into a position and assume that the position carries with it any special status or privilege other than the privilege to serve in a particular capacity. People will rely on us and we need to show what we are made of before we can reasonably expect them to align themselves with our values and what we want them to do for and with us. They will, almost certainly, want to be involved in some capacity with decision-making but they will expect that we will bear the risk and the responsibility of the ultimate decisions. They may well question everything until experience proves to them that what is being done is right. Then, over time, having once doubted, they may well come to support what is asked of them so strongly that in due course, we may need to ask them to consider anew what needs to be done as circumstances and, therefore, both the goals and the operational processes relating to them will change.
When people see light of trust, respect and responsibility in you. You are successful. You are a leader.
Amit Ray
Our reputation for working hard and stepping up when the times are tough must be unquestionable. We cannot expect others to go the distance when we are not prepared to do this ourselves. Counting the hours and reminding people about how hard we are working is never a great recipe for success. Noticing, acknowledging and celebrating the diligence and extra effort of the team is always wise. At the end of the day, the credit for success should go to the team that did it. The role of the leader is harder than most, but without the contributions of all, then success is rarely possible.


We need a range of practical leadership styles that speak to the context of the moment as much as they do the more enduring culture of the organisation. We need to align our values and how they are enacted through the mission of our role with the ethos and strategy of your organisation. We need to model and explain this to our team and help them to do the same. Enthusiasm for the work is essential, as is calmness in a crisis. No-one will ever pay us to lose our tempers or to go off on flights of fancy without having thought things through at least in outline form. At the same time, we need to help people to organise their work and demonstrate to them what is expected of them and when it needs to be done. Above all, they need to understand the “why”, the compelling rationale for the work and how the work of the team will fit together to achieve the task. It is a matter of professional courtesy to invite them to contribute to the “what” of the role, the details of how they might go about getting done what needs to be done and the goals they will set to do this. They may struggle at first but our encouragement and patience will go a long way to helping them to build routines and habits that create order, predictability, and incremental improvement in their work over time.


We need to be noticed for our willingness to make hard decisions with compassion and an understanding that clarity is a very specific act of kindness. None of us can grow when the direction we are given is vague and the feedback lacks honesty. This does not mean we should be cruel or untactful. There are ways of delivering challenging feedback and bad news which preserve the dignity and worth of individuals and teams as a whole. We can learn how to do these without resorting to sandwiching difficult ideas between two pieces of praise. People will learn very quickly to wait for the “but”, so positive feedback should be kept well clear of challenging conversation. We also need to be promoters of innovation and renewal. We may not come up with many or indeed any of the great ideas ourselves, but we need to be champions of those who do and establish processes that help new ideas to be tested and find homes in which, over time, they might flourish.


The Pathway to Excellence will call us to leadership in many ways. There is so much for us to learn and our learning journey should continue throughout our tenure in the role. When we leave, we need to be mindful that another will pick up the reins and that our service was a temporary and necessary way for us to contribute for a time. When we seek out and accept formal roles, therefore, we have the opportunity not simply to model our qualities, but to build teams who have the capacity to do the job together, build the culture that makes the work meaningful and satisfying, and get the job done in the way it should be done.

We can contemplate our understanding of our Formal Leadership in a Work Context by considering the following questions:
    • Do I keep myself informed and interested in internships, contracts and salaried positions that afford me opportunities to further develop my knowledge and skills as a leader, to apply these fully to the benefit of others, and to be impactful?

    • Do I discuss opportunities to test and develop my leadership skills during my meetings with my supervisors or directors?

    • Do I seek the guidance of a special personal mentor or coach who can help me reflect on my leadership skills and work on improvement, whether I am employed by an organisation or self-employed?

    • Do I strive to take on roles where my skills in problem-solving and creative thinking in leading others to generate innovative products, services and solutions?

    • Do I strive to model resilience, self-efficacy and a growth mindset for others and to nurture these in the culture of the organisation itself?

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