Working with your senior leadership team through COVID-19

Communication sits at the heart of every effective leadership team. This belief is truer today, in the midst of the COVID -19 pandemic, than it has ever been. Now more than ever, leadership teams need to deliberately act in ways that ensure communication remains effective. It can’t be left to chance. This blog highlights some important areas that a leader and leadership team should pay attention to as they continue to lead through uncertain times.

Collaborative problem solving


Effective leaders know that the people they serve find assurance in knowing that there is a plan and a path forward but this needs to be balanced with the understanding that a leader should not expect to know everything or have theanswer for everything. Working with others to problem solve in collaborative ways builds credibility and trust. It draws people in and helps to ensure they feel part of the team. Using ERO’s internal self-review process may be helpful in supporting this process.

Forum for feedback/pulse taking

At every level of the school, people will be processing what is happening and wanting opportunities to ask questions and give feedback. Effective leaders provide simple, regular opportunities for this either in person, or through their leadership teams as part of their delegated responsibilities. These opportunities build trust and helps the leadership team have a clear understanding of what is going on and how people are feeling.

Sharing with empathy and optimism

Empathetic leaders acknowledge the anxiety and uncertainty others may be feeling. They recognise the stress some information may cause so they do their best to engender a sense of hope and optimism. Empathic and optimistic leaders make it clear that there is a path to a better future and that the contributions of others are valued. They model empathy by ensuring relational trust operates through regular one-on-one and leadership team communication. Empathetic leaders keep their “ear to the ground” and are quick to resolve any issues and concerns that arise.

Honesty and transparency

Credible leaders share all the facts. They deliver information in a clear and straight-forward manner to avoid giving a false perception of reality. When leaders communicate, they need to be deliberate in ensuring it is timely, regular and relevant to the recipients. Leaders could take a leaf out of the communications we've received from Iona Holsted. These communications may not work for all of the people, all of the time. However, they can and do clarify essential information for schools and kura and can be accessed by recipients at any point in time.

Successful leaders communicate in ways that maximise trust and minimise stress and anxiety. They establish a communication routine which people can look to with reliability and are willing to ensure that it meets the needs of their school community. During uncertain times successful leaders know that strong, measured and trustworthy leadership is more important than ever.

In essence leaders who communicate calmly, honestly and respectfully, help others to experience less stress and receive information through a more hopeful and positive lens.  

About the authors 

Clare Hocking 

Clare is a Leadership Advisor in Canterbury. She has been mentoring beginning principals for over fourteen years. In 2016 she received a Distinguished Service Award for outstanding services to Education from the Waitakere Area Principals’ Association. While on an Auckland Primary Principals’ Association secondment to the University of Auckland with Team Solutions, Clare co-ordinated the pilot Aspiring Principals’ Programme for Te Tai Tokerau/Northland and Tamaki Makaurau/Auckland, in its foundation years.Clare’s current role involves partnering with beginning principals/tumuaki to provide targeted, tailored and timely support to meet their individual needs as educational leaders.

EA_EdH_01_Crop_WhiteEd Hodgkinson 

Ed is a Leadership Advisor based in the Greater Wellington region, also covering the Wairarapa and Tararua regions. Prior to coming to Evaluation Associates in 2017, Ed was a principal for eighteen years, in a mixture of rural and urban schools. Ed has been a first time principals' mentor for a number of years, as well as being president of the Wellington Regional Primary Principals' Association - a group of just over 200 schools. Ed currently works with beginning principals on areas such as strategic leadership, building relational trust and creating positive change - and many others.

 See how we can support beginning and established principals HERE

Tags: leadership leadership advisors principals covid-19

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