The Power of Wise Inclusive Leadership in Education: A New Paradigm

4 June 2024

Imagine a school where every decision is made with wisdom and inclusivity, where every stakeholder feels valued and heard. This is not a utopian dream, but a reality that can be achieved through Wise Inclusive Leadership. This leadership model, a combination of Boal and Hooijberg’s (2001) model on Wise Leadership and the six signature traits by Juliette Brooke (2016), has proven to be particularly effective in the education sector. 

Here are my 10 essential attributes to Inclusive Wise Leadership based on the combination of the above-mentioned models:


1.       Cognitive Complexity: The Cornerstone of Creative Problem Solving  

Cognitive complexity is the ability to think creatively and fluidly, employing critical thinking skills to solve problems. It’s not just about finding solutions, but about finding innovative solutions that cater for a diverse cohort. For instance, consider a school that integrates technology and hands-on learning activities and allows for students to choose their preferred learning method.


2.       Behavioural Complexity: Ability to change with grace  

The education landscape is constantly changing, as COVID-19 has proven. Changes are accelerating, and we need to be adaptable and flexible. This skill is critical; be open to plan B, C, or even D. As a working mum, I always have plan A (ideal) and multiple versions based on what life with young kids can throw at me. 


3.       Social and Emotional Intelligence: Be the master of emotion  

This involves being aware of and understanding both one’s own emotions and those of others and managing these emotions effectively to foster positive interactions. For example, a principal who notices a teacher struggling with workload and stress might proactively address the situation by prioritising the teacher’s mental health and providing extra resources. Additionally, in a tense meeting with parents, the principal would remain calm and composed, actively listen to concerns, and address issues with empathy and clarity, thus defusing potential conflicts and their own stress to ensure a positive interaction. 


4.       Always look at a future bigger picture, have Vision  

Setting clear goals, maintaining a future-oriented perspective, and inspiring others with this vision. Having a five-year plan with flexibility, anticipating changes in the curriculum and technology used, fostering partnerships, and considering potential future challenges. 


5.       Influence, motivate and communicate effectively  

Charisma is demonstrating values in a way that inspires and motivates others. Breathing a living the school’s culture, participating in activities, being present and approachable to the community and inspire by example to other teachers and leaders. 


6.       Diversity in the decision-making and not just as a number  

Commitment to Diversity implies not only dedication to the school’s mission, values, and continuous improvement; but embracing a new path with a diverse cohort of decision-makers. School boards are looking at having a student, a newly graduated teacher or support staff as part of the board, let them be part of the decision-making process; increasing representation not only of females, of diverse cultural backgrounds, ages, diverse ability and the list goes on. 


7.       Have the courage to be a leader, not a follower!  

The willingness to take risks and stand up for what is right, even in the face of adversity. Advocating for inclusive policies, for equity, for better STEM Programs for females, for policies that allow kids to continue be kids. 


8.       Collaboration shines as a village effort  

Working effectively with others to achieve common goals. Being at the heart of the school community, understanding and teaming up with parents, with teachers and the whole community. 


9.       Curiosity unlocks the doors to possibility  

Curiosity unlocks the door to diverse perspectives and out-of-the-Box thinking. The eagerness to learn and explore new ideas and to see matters from other’s perspectives and points of view. Leaders need people that are different and challenge their ideas, the worst that can happen to a leader is to have someone agree to everything they say, this is a recipe for disaster. Have evaluators in your team! 


10.      It is unrealistic to be a Master of All, be Humble  

We need Humility, recognising and acknowledging one’s own limitations and valuing the contributions of others. No one is infallible, we need help and should understand when to rely on other’s expertise. 


Together, these traits forge the beacon of effective educational leadership, empowering education leaders to navigate their institutions towards the pinnacle of success. 


Salome Bowman