This blog continues a series on school values with a focus on leadership. This opening blog approaches the language we have used to express the value, whilst the blogs on leadership that follow Leading in Uncertain Times and A Model for Leadership are designed to be more general reflections on the nature of leadership.
Leadership: Openness, integrity and thoroughness are characteristic of everything we do. Cranleigh aspires to lead thinking and practice in holistic, boarding education. Cranleighans will be equipped with the knowledge and skills to shape future culture.
In the blog, To Serve or Bang the Drum, I recounted the story of a brainstorming session where it was claimed that parents did not want their children to be servants but they wanted them to be leaders – an aspirational aim for their children to be prominent, decision makers and influencers in whatever field they work.
At Cranleigh, we have those aspirations for our pupils and also as an institution. One of the now clichéd yet nonetheless accepted definitions of an organisation’s culture is ‘the way things are done around here’. And since our motto is Ex Cultu Robur, from culture comes strength, the way we do things is important. We want to be continually looking to understand, improve and articulate what we are doing. We want a distinctively Cranleigh boarding education to be as good as it can be and that others will look to us for ideas and direction – just as we will look to others to learn. We want to be known for being purposeful and practical, professional and modern and in that to act as role models for the pupils.
Importantly, however, the graphic that presents the School’s values is within a circle so that leadership is linked to not a dimension separate from service, relationships and excellence. It is of course linked to the pursuit of excellence and it is also relational and servant-hearted.
Openness, integrity and thoroughness are relational. Leading cannot be separated from the manner of leading. A person or an institution is not fully equipped to take a leading role unless attention is given to the way they lead.
There are two sculptures in the School. One is by Enzo Plazzotta and is called L’Arrivée and represents an athlete breaking the finishing line. It focuses on the finishing line, the moment of arrival out in the world, with leavers equipped for living, both in the present and in the future. This image, with all its muscularity, suggests strength, training and readiness. It hints at power and winning and leadership.
The other sculpture, Cranleigh’s War Memorial, is called ‘Leaving’. The young man is deliberately non-muscular, naked not to show his strength like L’Arrivée, but to show vulnerability. He faces down the path towards the school exit and seems to me to ask: ‘remember me, I have died. How will you choose to lead your lives?’ Perpendicular to the base are inscribed the final words of WH Auden’s poem, September 1939, Love one another or die.
I think that these sculptures hold in tension a vision for leadership – tension because they are not two sides of a coin or opposites but because both are accurate pictures. We want students to be equipped and to be valued as individuals, but not too strongly individualistic.
Another issue, of course, with L’Arrivée is that the sculpture itself is distinctly masculine – not at all representative of half of the Cranleigh and world population; not at all sympathetic to those in our schools who do not find their gender, national or cultural identity represented in traditional Western forms.
Individual achievement and preparedness are still central to Cranleigh, but the model of leadership we wish to demonstrate is one in which vulnerability is understood and cherished, where differences in identity are celebrated and to where we recognise the damage which the aggressive assertion of power can lead. Today, being equipped to lead in a modern world means something very different and can be achieved in ways that are not self-serving.
As I write and re-read this blog, the all too familiar nagging accusations of self-righteousness and hypocrisy surface in my mind. Yet, I suppose we never finish when we arrive as leaders. We begin with a purpose, we stumble and lose our balance, we learn and we try to steady ourselves by not relying on ourselves. And we keep going, ‘running with perseverance the race set before us.’ (Hebrews 12 v 1). What a privilege it is.