Leading from the Inside Out A Report from Leadership Lab: Cohort II

Leading from the Inside Out A Report from Leadership Lab: Cohort II

In July of 2016, GLP launched its Leadership Lab for new heads of school with the belief that a small, intimate and personalized approach to leadership preparation was needed for independent school heads. The program provides time to retreat and look inward, to build deep relationships with other leaders, and to prepare for the real work of headship. We prototyped our vision with cohort I---and this July cohort II continued this work – but with a modified design to incorporate suggestions. So together, we gathered four new Heads in bucolic Connecticut to reflect, prepare, practice and offer feedback to each other as they entered the first year of headship at their new schools. As was the case last year, cohort II was invited to be intentionally small and, though not intentional, was again all women.

We learned a lot from our first cohort about what was most valuable to them in the Lab. Not surprisingly, the self-awareness that develops and the robust support and partnership that evolves when you work closely and candidly with others proved to be critical benefits. So we took it one step further: our first cohort joined the second Leadership Lab for much of the time, allowing the four new heads to hear about the first year experience—challenges, surprises, and successes. We must thank cohort I--each successful in her first year of headship--for their important participation in our program. 

The second thing we learned was that time to reflect deeply on one’s own leadership was the foundation for more practical and concrete planning work – so we created more structured, guided space for self assessment, exploration of values and personal visioning work. Moreover, based on the helpful feedback from cohort I, the GLP team modified the second year of our program to focus more on each individual’s leadership building---philosophy, experience, and skills---and on the specific characteristics of each new head’s school. We continued to filter into the design opportunities to practice management, communication and delegation skills, as well as deeper dives into the realities of finance, advancement, and board relations; but the overall emphasis was on planning for each Head’s unique context – presenting our work – and refining it through critique and collaborative discussion. 

While we frankly did not plan for an all-female cohort, we did decide to honor it with a special focus on the issues women in leadership often face. The workshop kicked off with a special evening with author Tiffany Dufu to share a dinner and talk about her leadership path and her new book, Drop the Ball. Tiffany is a leading national voice in the movement to advance women and girls, and her new book deals with the ways in which women leaders strike a purpose-driven balance as they integrate their personal and professional lives. On a mild New England evening, on a rolling lawn at our conference center, a dozen of us sat together talking about the realities of women’s lives – a perfect cap to a day of deep visioning and values work. 

Over that second day and through the third, the second cohort enjoyed the many unique advantages of the Leadership Lab’s flexible philosophy: 

  • any program segment can continue beyond the allotted time
  • cohort members can raise and pursue an area of discussion not on the agenda
  • each cohort member has dedicated individual work with each member of the GLP team during the lab.

Despite some shorter breaks, quick lunches, and a relative paucity of free time---all resulting from the flexible program philosophy---the three day Lab gave each cohort member a critical variety of productive work, constant feedback, and tangible plans for their first four months. And after four months and several coaching sessions, cohort II will meet again to review their first three months’ issues, challenges, and early wins as new heads. 

Most important for us, the Leadership Lab’s first cohort all had successful first years. Now connected with cohort I, cohort II can channel that confidence and use their fresh work at this year’s Leadership Lab as they move deeper into the experience of their first year.