Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Learning to lead


Secondary school or college is the perfect time for students to develop their leadership skills, believes Katy Granville-Chapman, who runs the leadership programme at Wellington College. She focuses on eight tangible aspects of leadership development.

Leadership is a difficult concept to define, but most of us would share a consensus of its key ingredients. Most would also acknowledge that it can be both innate and developed, but that all students have the capacity to improve their skills.

School or college is the perfect time for students to practise leadership: it is a safe environment where the consequences of mistakes are fairly benign and positive support is always readily available.

At Wellington, we've chosen to focus our leadership development programme on a few tangible aspects we believe can be learnt by all of our students. In order to justify the allocation of precious student and staff time, we needed to be confident that there would be significant value added to the students from a leadership programme.

We have designed our leadership programme within a framework based on a central theme: the development in each student of 'eight aptitudes', which are based loosely on Howard Gardner's thesis on multiple intelligences.

Much of the leadership programme is delivered as a part of the normal school day but each year group is also offered optional weekly leadership seminars and the sixth form participates in short courses dedicated to leadership development.

To encourage students to take on leadership responsibilities, we have introduced the Wellington College Leadership Diploma. To achieve this award, students must lead in activities across the eight aptitudes and write a reflection on what they have learnt. This helps them to write their CVs and UCAS application forms. It also allows staff to evaluate students' progress and motivation in developing their leadership.

The eight aptitudes

The eight aptitudes which make up the leadership programme are: linguistic, social, personal, moral, spiritual, physical, cultural and logical.

Effective communication is a central skill for any leader; we have found that our students are considerably better at speaking than listening effectively, so much of our time spent on communication is to improve students' appreciation of the value of listening. This is done through chairing and participating in meetings, working on active listening skills or delivering presentations.

Throughout their school career, students are constantly learning to interact within a group. Our focus for the development of the social aptitude is on providing insight into group dynamics and highlighting skills that students can use to enable effective leadership. For example, we use role-play and scenarios to explore different strategies for managing conflict.

The greatest leaders have strong moral compasses and we hope that the training we deliver helps our students to strengthen their own moral code. Wellington has a strong military tradition and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst's motto, 'Serve to lead', is appropriate to the type of leader we aim to develop.

The school emphasises each student's wellbeing and lessons are delivered to the junior years that teach them to consider how to develop their own happiness, while the physical aspects of the leadership programme emphasise the importance of looking after others' welfare, particularly when the team is under physical or mental pressure.

It is likely that all students will lead people from a variety of different cultures and backgrounds. The importance of recognising the diversity of values and attitudes is emphasised when developing the students' cultural aptitude; for leadership training, the students consider how they can adapt their leadership style to take into account the unique nature of each of their team members.

In order to take the development of students' logical aptitude beyond the confines of maths and science lessons, the students are encouraged to plan, organise and lead a range of activities. This helps them to appreciate the value of planning, preparation and time management, and activity reviews help them to reflect upon what they have learnt from the experience.

Prefect system

We have identified many opportunities in the normal school day for students to practise their leadership skills, for example while working towards a Duke of Edinburgh Award or training to become a peer mentor.

As do many schools, we have a prefect system and a student council. We also have student departmental committees that shadow heads of departments and, within boarding houses, responsibilities are delegated to students where appropriate.

Extracurricular activities provide good opportunities for leadership experience. For instance, the school is a member of Round Square, a worldwide association of schools committed to service and adventure. Students take full responsibility for the organisation of meetings and a range of activities and fundraising events.

Another avenue is our theatre, where students direct, cast and manage productions. In many sports, the students will contact other schools to organise matches and they plan and deliver much of the training.

To diversify the leadership opportunities open to students at Wellington, and to share ideas with students and staff from other schools, we also run leadership activities for external groups and organisations.

This year we ran our first summer leadership course for students from a range of different backgrounds, which will be repeated during this year's summer holidays. We also hold an annual Head Boy and Head Girl Conference and we are introducing a combined staff and student leadership conference to share ideas with other schools in January.

A worthwhile investment

We believe that leadership training for students is a very worthwhile investment, particularly if the training focuses on a holistic development of leadership values and skills.

Schools provide an excellent environment for the development of our future leaders, since students can safely take risks and make mistakes, whilst being positively supported throughout the learning process.

Katy Granville-Chapman is an assistant housemistress at Wellington College.

01: Linguistic

Leadership development area

  • Speaking efectively

  • Listening effectively

  • Writing effectively

Suggested training activities

  • Discussion groups, particularly on contentious issues.

  • Chairing and participating in a meeting

  • Delivering presentations

  • Debates

  • Comedy sketches, acting, word games (for example, Just a Minute)

  • Chinese whispers

  • Listening comprehension (looking not only for facts, but also for underlying meaning, particularly through non-verbal cues)

  • Active listening skills

  • Advertising/marketing

02: Logical

Leadership development area

  • Tools for planning and decision-making (for example, mind-mapping; cause/effect diagrams)

  • Time management

  • Change management

Suggested training activities

  • Planning and decision making exercises - indoors (business-focused)

  • Outdoors (command type tasks)

  • Plan an activity or excursion

  • Time-management tools

  • Wellington Project (a project that explores a change that could be made to Wellington to improve it for future Wellingtonians)

  • Wellington's version of The Apprentice

03: Cultural

Leadership development area

  • Valuing cultural diversity

  • Leadership in different cultures

  • The arts and communication

Suggested training activities

  • Cultural diversity exercises

  • Journey through leadership around the world

  • Interpretation and analysis of art forms, for example, paintings, ballet; organise a cultural excursion in groups to a gallery/theatre

04: Physical

Leadership development area

  • Ensuring the wellbeing of followers

  • Physical challenges

Suggested training activities

  • Practise prioritising the wellbeing of others when you are out of your own comfort zone - leader-led, challenging physical tasks

  • Physical challenges - develop confidence and learn about self, develop physical courage

  • Stretch participants' physical courage, strength and endurance through outdoor tasks

05: Moral

Leadership development area

  • The key leadership values (integrity, courage etc)

  • The challenges of leading ethically

  • Moral courage

  • Power and corruption

Suggested training activities

  • Discuss the values that are necessary in leaders

  • Moral dilemmas

  • Case studies of leaders and their values

  • Reflective journals to record when they have used moral courage

  • Does Power Corrupt and Five Steps to Tyranny video

  • Exploration of corruption in famous leaders, its impact and how this can be prevented

06: Spiritual

Leadership development area

  • Developing vision

  • Spirituality as a motivator and in the maintenance of morale

  • Tradition, ethos and leadership

  • Place in the world and responsibility to the earth

Suggested training activities

  • Exercises to explore own and others' values and principles and how to develop a vision from these

  • Case studies of where spirituality has been a motivator/helped in the maintenance of morale

  • Teach about Wellington's leadership and the history of Wellington College

  • Sustainability and environmental responsibility

07: Personal

Leadership development area

  • Self-awareness

  • Perception

  • Role models

  • Leadership styles

Suggested training activities

  • Exercises to learn how to choose your reactions

  • Perception exercises

  • Practical exercises to demonstrate leadership styles

08: Social

Leadership development area

  • Motivation

  • Serve to lead

  • Delegation

Suggested training activities

  • Motivation: methods; exercises in motivating others in challenging situations

  • Serve to lead - concepts and examples

  • Delegation exercises

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