“HE KAIMAHI – WORKER Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini

‘leading by doing’: upholding collegial practices that build capability in others in pursuit of the goals of the kura

The kaimahi leadership role is about demonstrating a strong work ethic that models commitment and dedication to the goals of the kura. The kaimahi leadership role requires versatility and the capability to undertake a variety of duties and tasks to achieve positive outcomes for learners’ learning and development. The concept of ‘leading by doing’ is at the heart of leadership for kaimahi. Kaimahi leadership is demonstrated through a ‘hands-on’ approach, in which decision making can be guided by a ‘working knowledge’ of all aspects of the kura. Kaimahi leadership is characterised by a willingness to become involved in various forms of work when the need arises. Additionally, the kaimahi should know, understand and appreciate the work being done by others.”

The quote that came to mind when reflecting on this key role was this…

“Leadership is action (and example), not position (or a title, or a badge)”

It is about what we do that counts; our actions will speak far more than any position or title that we might be labelled with, or badge we might have pinned on our chest.  It saddens me that sometimes people feel they need permission (via a title or badge) in order to demonstrate leadership, but it is our actions that is the leadership, and any one of us can take action.

When I was thinking about my own practice I feel that I operate by the philosophy that I would not ask any of my staff, or students, to do anything that I would not be prepared to do myself, or am not currently role modelling.  So I was really humbled when a feedback comment from one of my team reflected exactly that:

“Leading by doing comes across as a part of your leadership style. You would not get your team members to do anything that you wouldn’t :)”

That ‘hands-on approach’ and ‘working knowledge’ is critical for effective leadership.  I recall a couple of years ago I was given a significant amount of release time to work on a project; this meant that I was only teaching two classes, a Year 13 class and a Year 10 Extension PE Girls class.  The release time was critical to the project and allowed me to provide effective leadership of the project team, but there were times when I felt a real disconnect from aspects of our HPE teaching and learning programmes, in particular the junior programme.  It reinforced for me the need to be ‘hands-on’ in order to fully understand what my team were experiencing and to be able to support them and make key decisions.

This must be a real challenge for Senior Leadership Teams, and non-teaching Principal’s in particular.  I believe they can achieve the ‘hands-on’ and ‘working knowledge’ by being highly visible and role modelling what they are expecting of others.  Are they on the staff duty roster?  Are they visible in the playground?  Do they meet and greet students at the beginning of the day as they enter the school grounds?  Do they enter teaching spaces throughout the day to observe the learning taking place?  Do they take time to listen?  Do they role model their own teacher inquiry’s and learning?  As Senior leaders do they role model what they expect of their middle leaders?  Do they ‘know, understand and appreciate the work being done by others’?


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