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Leadership in Education - Aspiring Head Teachers programme

May 30th, 2014

Leadership in Education - Aspiring Head Teachers programme

We recently held an event in central Cardiff that was themed around leadership in education. For this, we were extremely lucky to be joined by former Wales Rugby Union international and British Lions captain, Gareth 'Alfie' Thomas, as well as Linus Harrison from non-profit enterprise Healing Boxes, and round-the-world yachtswoman Alex Phillips. Our high-profile speakers gave presentations that conveyed the importance of having the courage of your convictions and the determination to see things through.


Alfie's three principles to a happy life

Gareth Thomas, or Alfie, delivered a presentation on the importance in understanding yourself before leading others. He spoke passionately about his own journey of self-discovery, which required grit, courage and determination - traits required by today's leaders in education if they are to inspire and motivate young learners.

In addition to the good humoured storytelling that you would expect of a Welsh rugby player, Alfie spoke with considerable emotion and honesty about overcoming his fears, and making the decision to live his life by three simple principles - dedication, sacrifice, and enjoyment.

He described how he came to acknowledge that to be happy he needed to be successful in his career and that he could only be successful by doing what he enjoyed most. He also talks about the rugby team as his second family, and regarding the crucial importance of teamwork, says that 15 average team players will always beat 15 amazing individuals.


Changing lives through our words

Our second speaker, Linus Harrison is the co-founder of Healing Boxes: Tailored Gifts to Warm the Heart, which is a non-for-profit social enterprise that sells gift boxes containing items that convey love and support for people coping with illness.

As a young couple, Linus and his wife have learned to cope with chronic illness, which inspired them to set up an online business that offers thoughtful and comforting gifts. However, Linus’ talk wasn’t so much related to his business as about the mind-set that inspired him to change – and take control of – his life. Linus gave a fascinating and impassioned talk about the power of our choices and the power of our words. His message is powerfully simple: “Words hold the key for shaping the life the way you want it – claim your happiness.”

Linus expresses how closely linked great power is with great responsibility, and argues that we can decide to move from helplessness (“I don’t have time…”, “ I can’t afford...”) to an empowered mentality. Things that many of us say deny our own responsibility, says Linus, who suggests trying to avoid phrases such as “should” or “shouldn’t”, “have to” and “can’t”, and instead employing ways to include yourself in what you say (“I think…”, “I choose…”, “I decided to…”). Food for thought indeed.


The ups and downs of life at sea

Our third speaker was round-the-world yachtswoman Alex Phillips who delivered a compelling story of her quest to pull together a team capable of winning one of the world’s toughest yacht racing challenges. Alex described the lessons she learned in what transpired to be a rollercoaster of events through the preparation phases and onto the race itself, with many an unforeseen outcome.

Alex’s successes were grounded in creating an environment of trust and shared values of being safe, happy – and fast. She talks a lot about playing to the relative strengths of the team and allowing them to find their primary areas of contribution.

Through an unfortunate series of events, Alex discovers the importance of succession planning and celebrating success. She explains that in order to be an effective leader, she learned that she had to look after herself and maintain self-belief. Tough lessons were learnt about how to deal with adversity, and most significantly, how important it is to enjoy the journey.

As we listened to the three speakers’ very different stories what was apparent were the common threads of leadership that ran throughout. On the surface Alex, Linus and Alfie’s journeys could not be more dissimilar, and yet their respective successes are founded upon the common ingredients of personal accountability, integrity, self- awareness, and self- belief.



Insight team


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