Each year, in the spring, I have the privilege of speaking to the delegates on the annual leadership development course run by the Scottish Council of Independent Schools. I speak to them on the subject of agile leadership and base the talk on many of my own experiences of leadership in a variety of contexts. In particular, I stress the importance of leadership agility in what is an increasingly Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world. I stress that the world that we live in is increasingly VUCA and hence we can no longer apply the old paradigms of leaders and leadership to it. I know that when I next speak to this group of aspirant school leaders I will have a vastly bigger range of experiences to draw upon! Over the last three months the degree to which the world we inhabit has become VUCA seems to have developed exponentially. From week to week, day to day and sometimes hour to hour the rules and regulations governing what we are allowed to do change and hence we have had to adapt and change our plans.
And of course, our pupils have been on the receiving end of this. They have, without a doubt, experienced previously unimaginable levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity in their lives. At first this worried me a great deal. How would they cope? Would it have a negative impact on their wellbeing or mental health? What would be the long term impacts? Well the funny thing is, they mostly seem fine. Adaptable as most children are, they seem to have mostly taken it on the chin. They’ve rolled up their sleeves, learnt new skills, met the challenges head on and rapidly developed exactly the kind of skills that I’ve spent several years explaining to future school leaders that they will require to thrive. Although I have no wish to play down the period of lockdown or ignore the many truly awful impacts, one positive thing that I do sense is that it has enabled our pupils to develop extraordinary levels of resilience in a short space of time. They say that every cloud has a silver lining, and perhaps this is it?
I hope that you remain safe and well.
John F Gilmour