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Leadership Development at St Michael's Grammar, Melbourne
by Mark Raymond

This case study features extensive application of the ontological methodology in an educational setting - St Michael’s Grammar, a leading co-educational Anglican school in Melbourne, Australia. Dr. Faye Lambert, Deputy Head at St. Michael’s is a participant in the Graduate Diploma of Ontological Coaching. Dr. Lambert has extensively applied her ontological learning from the Graduate Diploma in a leadership program at the school, with excellent results. Part of this article draws on an Occasional Paper on the development of deep level capacity in schools written by Dr. Lambert for the Centre for Strategic Education (2007).

Background

St Michael’s Grammar is a leading co-educational Anglican school based in Melbourne. There are around 1300 students and 180 staff at St. Michael’s. Since 2006, the school has undertaken a comprehensive learning and leadership program. This multi-tiered program has been delivered to all existing teaching and non-teaching staff, new staff and those in positions of leadership. They are currently developing a program for parents of students doing Year 10 in 2010 and for the Board of Directors. The program, called “Black Feather”, was designed by Dr Lambert working with the Organisational Development Manager, Meredith Carrington, and the Head of the Junior School, Annabelle Knight. A key assumption underlying the program is that the school needs outstanding teachers and support staff to deliver outstanding results for the students.

The program drew on research conducted at St Michael’s and outside the school on the factors that affect staff engagement in the school and their sense of identification with the school. The most important factor identified at St Michael’s – for teachers and support staff – was professional autonomy and the trust that goes with this. The second key factor for teachers was linked to their sense of purpose and for support staff, it was about open communication and support from the school’s leaders and teachers. The program also factored in significant research outside the school on educational change programs. The research suggests that “deep level capacity building” is critical to achieve sustainable change.

Deep Level Capacity Building and Trust

A key theme running through all aspects of deep capacity building is that relationship-building, based on trust, is fundamental. The arguments for this might seem obvious, but are worth elaborating on. They include:

The Program at St Michael’s

The program at St Michael’s was designed to foster an integrated and holistic approach to capacity building, by focussing on key elements such as social and intellectual capital, values coherence, sense of deep purpose and distributed leadership. An underlying objective of the program was to create opportunities for participants to build relationships with each other based on trust, as the means to higher levels of engagement, productivity, innovation, and ultimately better outcomes for students. As Dr Lambert contends, trust is an abstract concept and difficult to measure, but powerful when it exists and deserving of much attention.

I would like to elaborate on the third program, the program for teachers in leadership positions, as this was the program that included a number of components from Newfield’s methodologies.

A key reason for the development of the leadership program was to provide support to teachers in leadership positions on learning what it means to be a leader and how to go about it. Historically, teachers who have been promoted to leadership positions are outstanding teachers with limited training in leading and managing people. This is what the program sought to address. The program begins with three and a half day residential which has been delivered twice with around 25 participants in each cohort.

Some of the key elements of the program included:

Leadership Development Program Outcomes 

The contribution of the Newfield Institute’s material is readily apparent in participant reflections on the program: “ I have begun to critically evaluate the conversations I choose, or rather choose not to have. …I was also not aware that the reason sometimes I felt frustrated with colleagues was because I was not making effective requests. I didn’t realise how negatively these two issues were impacting on my working relationships or happiness at work’.

Various frameworks used in the course of the program received the following ratings of usefulness from participants:

The program also achieved the following anecdotal outcomes:

Lessons Learnt

Participants rated the program very highly, with 80% indicating that it would contribute “a lot” or “a great deal” to their becoming a more effective leader. The reasons for success of the program were varied, but it is worth noting some of the things that St Michael’s believed played an important role:

The residential component of the program is only the beginning. Follow-up sessions will soon include work on the critical role that moods and emotions play in decision making and action, including a moods framework which allows people to identify and manage their moods.

© Newfield Institute

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