Leadership is Seeing Beyond the Immediate

Originally Published in the 2020 Fall Edition of NewsLinks


What has International School Start Up and Management Looked Like?

The ISS School Management team is attuned to school leadership raising challenges and reacting in a timely and innovative fashion. As ISS School Start-ups and Management works closely with more than 20 schools around the world, with senior leadership executives liaising with these schools remotely, the ISS School Management team was well prepared for the tactical changes needed.

The senior leadership executives assigned to each of the schools are experienced school heads who have faced challenges like school closures in the past. They were able to coach school boards, heads, and leadership teams. Our teacher’s professional development services had gone through some transformation with more available online, and virtually.

Several of the services developed over the past months are affordably priced, targeted, online consultancy packages in finance, human resource, legal liability, and health and safety. Additionally, we offered interactive workshops dealing with operational issues originating from the pandemic; these included a school reopening scenarios workshop and marketing and social media workshops to address increasing challenges of student enrollment.

Interestingly, groups or individuals looking to start new schools during the pandemic continued to seek ISS support and expertise. ISS has recently submitted bids on several new projects and looks forward to continued new schools development with innovators and entrepreneurs around the globe.

New Changes, and More Ahead

Our professional development for teachers needed to be delivered virtually instead of on-site. Some of our new start-up and management contracts are being negotiated and signed without the ability to visit the sites. Others are forging ahead through virtual meetings of teams of architects, owners, and ISS school management representatives to meet deadlines and achieve targets.

Advice for School Leaders and Founders

Visible, competent and confident leadership is more important than ever in times of stress. Without ‘sugar coating’ the challenges ahead, successful school leaders help their stakeholders arrive at a common understanding of the options available, as well as their strengths and limitations.

However, the borders between leading and managing can become blurry. Our human tendency is to take care of what is needed, urgent, and what seems to have tangible, measurable results. Leadership, on the contrary, is the ability to see beyond the immediate. It is about anticipating the next challenges and equipping employees with capabilities to create the best outcomes. In the McKinsey Quarterly report Diversity Still Matters’ (May 2020) the authors argued that in times of crisis, organizations tend to drop their diversity and inclusion strategy as they focus on their most pressing basic needs. However, leaders and managers will need great resolve and resilience as they explore potential financial and social paths towards a “new normal.” Diverse and inclusive organizations are characterized by innovation and resilience. Those facets will be essential for organizations as they recover from this crisis.

Therefore, investing in equality and diversity in international schools has never been more essential. Leveraging the diverse composition of our organization and turning it to a superpower to get us out of this crisis stronger requires understandings, empathy, and compassion, three qualities that may be hard to manage and control during times of crisis. Staying focused on our mission and vision for a better world through high-quality education will assist our efforts towards inclusion and equality, despite the challenges.

Amidst the Turbulence, Celebration

ISS assisted several new schools in opening their doors to begin the 2020-2021 school year, including the United Lisbon International School (ULIS) in Portugal. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the ownership and leadership worked together with ISS guidance to ensure that teachers and staff were ready on September 14 to receive 120 students, which was above expected opening day enrollment! ULIS teachers and staff worked with ISS and Common Ground Collaborative personnel to ensure that the opening of the new school would be fantastic.

Congratulations to United Lisbon International School and other campuses that have worked very hard to open for 2020-21. Wishing you good luck and a great first year!