Teo Toriatte (Let us cling together)
Unless leaders have a clear sense of what guides their own thinking, that leader is unlikely to be able to influence others.
In 1976 the rock group Queen released a little known but beautiful song, much of it sung in Japanese, entitled “Teo Torriatte” which loosely translated means “Let us cling together”.
Apart from the intrinsic beauty of the song, it’s the chorus that has always stayed with me and which holds great wisdom for all leaders. In English, the key part of the chorus is:
“In the quiet of the night
Let our candle always burn
Let us never lose the lessons we have learned.”
The best school leaders and the best classroom teachers, those with the greatest levels of resilience, have a sound balance between their technical skills and their sense of individual purpose.
They are keenly aware of what drives them. They are passionate about their beliefs. They draw upon these two things consciously as a source of strength when they need to access the courage to confront the challenges of educational leadership in the classroom or at the whole school level.
There are some fundamental questions which I believe we need to answer in order to uncover what it is that drives us.
Our personal belief structures are already there. But are we are sufficiently aware of them and are we able to access them when the going gets tough?
Who are we? What do we value? It’s surprising how many people struggle to answer succinctly. And how little time we allocate to self-reflection and analysis of who we are as professionals.
So, the link to the song Teo Torriatte? To ensure we “never lose the lessons we have learned” we need to take the time to reflect upon, analyse and internalize those lessons.
A starting point for self-analysis
In many of the workshops I deliver on leadership development (both classroom teachers and those in formal positions of leadership) I ask participants to focus upon the following questions as a starting point:
- What do you see as your strengths of spirit?
- What drives you as a professional?
- What do you believe are fundamental rights of staff and students in terms of learning and participation?
- How do you use these understandings to create a sense of community in your work teams?
- Can you identify 2 significant people or events that have shaped your professional thinking?
It never ceases to surprise me that for many people, this is the first time they have ever tried to articulate such things for themselves.
It reminds me that while there are many technical skills we can develop in people, and a plethora of training programs deliver these; the self-awareness, wisdom and resilience which characterise the best of teachers and leaders are not things for which people can be trained.
A new hope
There are many frameworks that can assist school leaders to analyse their personal strengths and needs. In my view, those that are most useful place knowledge of self at the core of the technical skills necessary to fulfil our responsibilities.
Central is the belief that leadership starts from within. Unless we have a clear sense of what guides our own thinking, we are unlikely to be able to influence others.
If we understand ourselves well enough, and we understand what we are trying to achieve in our schools, we can draw upon this understanding to inspire others and to sweep away the storm clouds of pessimism.