Working well: Thoughtful leaders, thinking organisations
Today, FETL launches a series of short films capturing the reflections, years on, of FE leaders who participated in a programme of seminars to help them understand the systemic factors that drive behaviour and shape thinking in the sector. Dame Ruth Silver explains.
In difficult circumstances, leaders can fall prey to their own internal demons – their own delusions and false conceptions – that can only be dispelled or overcome by being profoundly understood. All too often, though, leaders lack time, knowledge and the support to process these experiences and so risk neglect of their own internal drivers and pay too little attention to the ways in which they internalise the system, its challenges and meaning in which they work.
This was why the Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL) was pleased to commission a tailored project called ‘How can Psychoanalysis and systems theory contribute to the leadership of thinking in the further education and skills sector?’, led by specialist consultancy company, Working Well. This project, which resulted in a programme and publication in 2016, consisted of a series of nine themed webinars constructed around chosen concepts resulting in think pieces, thoughtful provocations, written by project leaders Gabriella Braun and David Armstrong.
The response and level of engagement from participants – all leaders in FE – was exceptional. Not only did the leaders enthusiastically accept the project’s invitation to learn about themselves – their role and part in the system and the impact of the system on their own internal world – many also felt inspired to change aspects of their behaviour or leadership style, to lead through learning, and to be more mindful in general of their own drivers. For many of them, it was a challenging, often very personal, journey. But most reported leaving the programme feeling more sensitised to the dynamic relationship between their internal lives, their organisation and the wider system.
As such, the project set in motion wheels that, we sensed, would continue to turn for years to come. That is why, some four years on, FETL decided to revisit the participants, and to ask how they had taken forward what they learned in the seminars. The series of commissioned short films that resulted offers a fascinating insight into how these leaders have used the new conceptual framework and insight gained to reshape their leadership and their organisations.
The films, which we launch today, capture the long-term reflections of participants. They show, among other things, how effective the original seminars were in opening up new ideas, knowledge and worlds to this group of leaders, providing, in the word of lead consultant Gabrielle Braun, a portal to new learning and the possibility of leading better, healthier organisations.
Dame Ruth Silver is President of the Further Education Trust for Leadership. The original publication, capturing the debate in the nine seminars, can be downloaded here: https://fetl.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/FETL-workingwell-2016.pdf