top of page

The Mindset of a Leader

Gemma's blog has come about through recent training experiences the Grow Your Mindset girls have had, whilst out and about, working with middle leaders and SLT, to help them become the best version of themselves.

I've had the pleasure of developing and delivering our Leadership training over the past 12 months and I always love meeting and working with the people who come on the 3 part course. They always have a story to tell, an interesting background and a keen interest in developing themselves.

Although I've never reached the dizzy heights of SLT, I've got a lot of experience and knowledge from being part of middle leadership for a number of years. My skills and experience include me successfully running an SEN department for 7 years, working with over 50 children and coordinating 15 staff. During my role, Ofsted commented on the outstanding organisation of the department and clear goal setting that had been introduced. The smooth running of this department was built upon the good relationships and clear communications I had with staff, parents and children at the time. And it's this role, I always think back to, when delivering our Leadership training.

It's also come about through a number of recent experiences I've had recently, being totally inspired and then thinking that being inspired by others is an essential part of developing yourself as a leader and why is it so many headteachers we come across, think that development for themselves is not needed? Is it an arrogance? They have already reached the top, I'm far too superior for this. Is it embarrassment? If I expose myself as someone who has areas to develop, that makes me a failure. Or is it time? I'm too busy to develop myself, but I can allow my staff to take my place instead.

I've come to the conclusion that successful leadership is about collaboration, it's about sharing ideas, it's about continually seeking development for yourself and for those around you. Do you need a title? No. Do you need to be ranked against your peers in superiority? No. Leadership is so much more that that.

In the past week or so, I've been exposed to a number of people who have allowed me to become a better version of myself, people that I wish to learn from because I see their leadership as inspirational.

First off is Jaz Ampaw-Farr, a teacher by trade, who now travels the world delivering the most heart warming, goosebump-tingling and shocking talks. Crying with laughter and with sadness in the space of 30 minutes, this woman has been on the most incredible journey. I'm not going to spoil what Jaz has to offer, but if you take a look at anything, watch her in this TED talk from 2017.

Watching Jaz at a recent Mental Health conference, reminded me of how important the work we do, as teachers, is. "We aren't just teachers," she says, "We are everyday heroes."

We are leaders to every single child we meet in our classes and if you've read any of my blogs before, you know how crazy passionate I am about being role models, walking the walk and talking the talk, ALWAYS. We show them, right from wrong, we believe they can achieve their dreams, we take them on a journey of adventure, creativity and fun and we do it together, hand in hand with them all the way. We are brilliant at leading our children and inspiring them, we just need to work harder on doing the same for our colleagues and each other.

Second on my list is Karen Bramwell. The CEO for the Forward As One Multi Academy trust.

I've actually known Karen for along time, but it was only recently when I had the chance to do a podcast with Classroom Secrets, that I realised what an impact she had on me. Myself and Liz actually got to chat with her properly at an awards ceremony this year, where we had been made finalists, The Inspire Women awards for education and Karen was there for her work in leadership. She won. As I mentioned already, I've known Karen for a while. I did my outstanding teaching training with her school, she also introduced me to Kagan collaborative learning structures and my Middle Leadership certificate was carried out at Karen's school, so she's always been there on the sidelines.

At the awards ceremony, we were actually sat on Karen's table, which was lovely and just managed to get chatting with her. What is really clear from Karen is her passion for education, her eyes sparkle when you talk about the work she does and you can tell that she absolutely loves her staff. When we were looking around the table, you couldn't tell which one was the CEO because she embraced everybody who was part of her school. No pecking order.

Sometimes, I really think this is where leadership goes wrong. There has to be an understanding of the difference between leadership and management.

It's the difference between being 'transactional' and 'transformational.'

A transactional leader can address small operational details quickly, which means they get distracted or can react quickly, without much thought. They handle all the details that come together to build a strong reputation in the workplace, while keeping staff productive on the front line. This reputation can be built on fear and hierarchy. It's formal, in it's approach and the leader uses their authority and responsibility as a form of power. They use an array of incentives to motivate staff to perform at their best, essentially motivating them by exchanging rewards for performance, which in turn creates silos.

A transformational leader, does the day to day running but they also act as a role model, coach, as a motivator, who offers vision, excitement, encouragement, morale and satisfaction to the staff. They inspires their people to increase their abilities and capabilities, build up self-confidence and promote innovation in the whole workplace.

This leader’s style is to focus on team-building, motivation and collaboration with employees at different levels to accomplish change for the better. This leader sets standards for excellence, takes risks, challenges the status quo and puts people first.

For me, this is Karen, leading from the front line, expecting the very best, but creating pathways to enable her staff to be the very best. Another thing I've noticed is that the people she has in her team, are people that have been there for as long as I've known her. They aren't stagnant and still doing the same roles, they have grown, developed in their teaching and learning, become leaders in the own setting and appreciate the vision and belief that Karen has had in them all those years. More importantly, they continue to grow and develop - together.

courtesy of

In my number 3 spot, is someone I've only come across in the past few months, but has had an enormous impact. This is Jeremy Hannay, a headteacher in London. The reason I've been drawn to him is his unique desire to break the mould. The teachers we've had recently on our training, seem scared to death of 'difference.' Doing things that they believe are right, but what would Ofsted say? For example, they all recognise that they should be more transformational and spend far too much of their time doing transactional stuff, but when you discuss the reasons for this, it's out of fear of disappointing someone else.

This is not Jeremy. He's been brave and he's been bold and got rid of the 'noise' from his school. Lesson planning, gone. Data collection, gone. Target setting gone. Learning walks, gone. And this really is just the beginning. People told him he was crazy, people told him it wouldn't work and that's not the way to do things, but he stuck by his guns. His philosophy being, that if he improved staff well-being, this would in turn lead to his staff being better teachers, leading to better learning, leading to happy children who made good progress. And, when Ofsted came knocking earlier this year, his school was awarded 'Outstanding' in all areas. Do not get me wrong, although he was pleased with the grade, he is very clear on his feelings about Ofsted and the culture of fear that they have created in education and shortly after his inspection, wrote a 'laid bare' blog, addressed to Ofsted, stating just that.

My last inspiration comes from a leader who does everything for the children and the community that his school is in. Dave McPartlin, headteacher of Flakefleet Primary in Lancashire. You may recognise the name of this school as they were the first to get the Golden Buzzer, from David Walliams at this years Britain's Got Talent. This headteacher truly believes in every single child at his school and promises to give them the most exciting, rich and inspirational education he possibly can. Like Jeremy, he ignores the sceptics, the pessimists and goes with his vision and dream and as BGT shows, he proved everyone wrong.

To have a local primary school do what Flakefleet did, showed everyone that dreaming big, was not just a lovely quote, but achievable and real. He's now busying himself in another 'Dare 2 Dream' project, creating a better Fleetwood.

So there you have it, inspirational leaders in all walks of life, people to aspire to.

Be the maker of change, lead from the front, break the mould and as Dave would say "Dare to Dream."

116 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page