Whether you lead a class, a subject, a phase or a school you are always looking to develop strategies and skills to lead more effectively. There are many inspirational and practical books on Leadership but recently I’ve been challenged by Jim Collins’ book ‘Great by Choice’ and particularly his research into an approach he titles: ‘The 20 Mile March’.
A graphic example of this is found in two famous explorers, Robert Scott and Roald Amundsen who both led to teams to walk the 700 mile round trip to the South Pole in October 1911. Although they shared the same objective and faced the same hard conditions the outcomes were radically different for the both of them.
Amundsen made it first to the pole and he and his team returned safely to their base camp. Scott also made it to the pole, albeit well after the Norwegians, yet he and his team all died a mere 10 miles away from a supply depot.
What made the difference? Both men had their strengths and weaknesses, so how could the result be so drastically different? There are many answers and facets to this but a key factor was Amundsen’s steadfast decision to walk on between 15 to 20 miles a day.
On a clear day when spirits were high and the weather less relenting Amundsen stuck rigidly to his plan. Scott, by contrast, would make the most of the conditions and push to go 25 miles, exhausting his team in the process. On those days when the weather deteriorated and the explorers were faced with gale force winds, Scott would rest his team yet Amundsen pressed ahead in grueling conditions with methodical disciplined consistency. His decision to go 15-20 miles every day made the difference.
Within our diverse and challenging roles in school it is easy to be pulled this way and that, go off on tangents, relax when the going is good or let our emotions dictate our actions but without ‘methodical disciplined consistency’ we can quickly come unstuck in difficult times.
So the question is: what’s your 20 mile march?
What can you do on a daily basis with ‘fanatical consistency’(Collins) that will ultimately lead to success? Could this be committing to marking a certain amount of books every day regardless of your energy levels or your amount of time out of class? Is it a resolute decision to encourage a member of staff in your team? Maybe to respond to an educational tweet every day? Respond to all those emails?!
Whatever your ‘20 mile march’ (and there could be quite a few!), commit to it and reap the rewards.
I am always tempted to think that a systematic, repetitive and routine approach does not compliment my natural inclination to be creative and spontaneous but I’m fooling myself here: the reverse is true. These systems and daily routines actually form the perfect foundation and framework for creativity to flourish.
Our school has worked extremely hard over the last few years to map out our ‘20 mile marches’ and have endeavoured (and succeeded!) to be as consistent as possible and that is what has separated us from the others.
Onwards and upwards!
Head of Primary School