CPD workshop: First steps as a middle leader

Written by: Steve Burnage | Published:
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Our series offering free in-school CPD templates continues. Steve Burnage talks us through CPD ideas that can be adapted for your school. He offers a template for a 45-minute workshop, with free handouts and slides. This instalment looks at CPD for those taking their first steps into middle leadership

This purpose of this article is to provide a 45-minute interactive training outline that could be suitable for a staff meeting, staff development group, small group CPD session or for individual study.

The training outline is included here while the PowerPoint slides and an accompanying participants’ handout is available to download by clicking the two supplement buttons above.

Slide 1: Welcome

In order to facilitate the training, you will need:

  • Copies of the PowerPoint slides printed three to a page with space for notes for each participant.
  • Copies of the accompanying “Starting to lead” handout for each participant.
  • Flip chart paper and marker pens.

Slide 2: Introduction

Starting to lead will focus on the three key pieces of learning that those new to middle leadership need to know:

  • Understanding what leaders and managers in school actually do.
  • Exploring the main skills and behaviours of a good middle leader.
  • Being able to identify your own middle leadership strengths and those areas that need development.

So, before we address the first question of what middle leaders and managers actually do, let’s reflect on what we mean by middle leadership and management.

Slide 3: Leadership or Management

The diagram clearly shows the difference between leadership and management – leadership is about turning your vision into an action plan (strategy), while management is about taking strategy and delivering what needs to be done (execution).

Activity: think about your own middle leadership role (you might want to choose just one aspect of the area that you lead on):

  • What is your vision for the area you lead – try to condense this into one or two sentences.
  • Now think about how you and your team will turn this vision into a reality.
  • Finally, think about what and who: what will you and your team do to deliver your strategy? Who will do what?

Share your ideas with the group:

  • Are there similarities that mean middle leaders could work together and share work and responsibility?
  • Are there areas you will need support with?
  • How does your plan fit with your school’s priorities?

Slide 4: What do middle leaders do?

  • Working alone, think about the question: “What do middle leaders do?”
  • Work in pairs to share your ideas and come up with an agreement on your top five tasks for middle leaders.
  • Share your top five tasks with the whole group.
  • Record the group’s response on flip chart paper – you will come back to this later.

Slide 5: Action-centred leadership

Adair – a key writer and theorist on leadership theory and practice – came up with the concept of “action-centred leadership”. This is the idea that our leadership should focus on what we as individuals and our teams aim to achieve. Without this focus on “action”, there is little point in leading since nothing will change, improve or be delivered.

Adair goes on to say that effective leadership is about maintaining a balance between the task to be accomplished, the individuals who contribute to the task and the team that the individuals form in their shared responsibility to complete the task.

Let’s look at Adair’s ideas in a little more detail.

Slide 6: Action-centred leadership (Adair)

Work in small focus groups to discuss the three key areas of Adair’s action-centred leadership model: task, individuals and team. Reflecting on one area of your middle leadership that you choose, discuss:

  • Task – what is the task? How do you make sure your leadership produces the right things, in the right way, at the right time and to the right standards?
  • Individual – what strategies do you have to get the best out of people? How do you set clear standards, provide them with the right support and tackle underperformance?
  • Team – how do you know that you lead your team fairly and openly? What strategies do you have to motivate and engage your team? How do you keep your team looking forward to the future?

Share your ideas with the group and add them to the key leadership skills sheet you produced earlier in the session.

Slide 7: The danger zone

Some middle leaders focus their leadership on one of the three key leadership areas – task, individual or team. This can impair the quality of good middle leadership.

Activity: thinking about your own middle leadership and the area for which you are accountable, what would your leadership look like if you focused too much on one of the key areas above?

  • Taking each area in turn – task, individual and team – identify what your danger signs would be?
  • What steps could you take to ensure that your middle leadership remains balanced across all three areas?
  • Share your ideas with the group and add the key points to your action sheet.

Slide 8: Making it work at work

Activity: what will you do as a result of this training? Working in groups, look at the action sheet you have produced during this training.

  • What are the three key learning points for you?
  • What will you change tomorrow to improve your middle leadership?
  • How will you know when your change has been successful? 
  • Steve Burnage has experience leading challenging inner city and urban secondary schools. He now works as a freelance trainer, consultant and author for staff development, strategic development, performance management and coaching and mentoring. Visit www.simplyinset.co.uk and read his previous articles for SecEd, including his previous CPD workshop overviews, at http://bit.ly/2u1KW9e

Further information

This article is the third in a series of Bite Sized Training CPD. Bite Sized Training offers a range of 45-minute CPD sessions designed to be used as focused yet active school-based training. The materials are produced by Steve Burnage through www.simplyinset.co.uk. Steve will offer us more free CPD session ideas and templates in the new year.


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