Name: Amanda Pearce-Burton
Phase: FE as a teacher, cross sector in respect of my leadership development work.
Role: Director of Formation Training, an organisation developing leaders across all phases of education.
Region: East Midlands
Years Served in Education: I have been working in the sector 24 years
Twitter Handle: @formationpeople
I started out by lecturing for several years in FE on a creative course, as well as teaching creative sessions to children and young people across early years, primary and secondary. Schools then began asking me to deliver INSET for teaching leaders on using creativity across the curriculum, which morphed into being asked to use my creative approach to develop leadership development programmes. At this point, I undertook postgraduate study, which fuelled my interest in leadership, and demonstrated the importance of research and evidence based practice. Over the past 24 years, I have delivered sessions across all phases of education to aspiring, middle and senior leaders to develop their leadership skills and capabilities using creative approaches. Since 1997, I have been Director of an organisation working across all phases of education. We have delivered training to thousands of teachers, educators and leaders, as well as leading quality assurance projects for educational workforce development initiatives such as HLTA and EYP, where we carried out national assessment design, moderation and quality assurance of education providers’ work. Alongside this, I have been lucky enough to have 9 years experience of sitting as a Governor, initially in primary, followed by Secondary. During this time, I’ve held specific Governor responsibility for a range of roles, including performance management, strategic QA, strategic planning and leadership recruitment.
This changes according to where I am in my own leadership space! I’ve had the privilege to meet so many inspiring leaders who have been generous in sharing and supporting. However, if I had to name one person, it would be my mum. Herself a teacher and educator for the majority of her career, she has been a huge inspiration. From being a positive role model as a working mother when I was young, to supporting by helping me to reflect and carefully consider how I can best make a difference to others. She embodies the empathy, listening and coaching skills that signal strong and caring leadership.
Why do we need WomenEd?
Over the past 25 years, working within and with education leaders, I have seen that many skilled female leaders feel it necessary to pretend to be something they are not in order to achieve. I believe that it is possible to succeed, whilst recognising our difference. The WomenEd community provides support, encouragement, and the opportunity to share and develop strong relationships that can help women act authentically. This in turn models authentic and caring leadership to others across the education community. It’s been amazing over the past 18months to see how much confidence has grown for many of the leaders who are part of WomenEd events, helping each other and each offering as well as taking support. The size and strength of the network is testimony to how much it is needed and making a difference.
How would you like to affect change in the system?
I feel very strongly about the need to develop compassionate leaders. In my work, I hear so many stories from teachers and support staff about their experience of authoritarian leaders, and the toxic climate they produce. Of course different styles are needed at different times, but there seems to be a lack of understanding about the benefits of developing relationships in order to engage staff, understand their personal aspirations and motivate them. Evidence strongly points to the power of building positive relationships and developing leadership capacity through meaningful coaching and the power of listening. This in turns builds self-confidence and trust. Whilst it is true this happens in many schools, so many leaders with whom I work talk about their negative experiences at the hands of bullying leaders. There are still far too many dysfunctional team relationships, and I focus my work on addressing this.
What are the values that your shape you as a leader?
Creativity is a core value that greatly influences how I work and the choices I make. I feel energised and hopeful when I am most able to express myself in creative ways. If I reflect on the times I have found most hard in life, it has been when creativity has been lacking that I have felt most disconnected. I have come to realise that I need to be able to express myself creatively, as well as use creative ways of facilitating my work with others. In terms of leading a team, showing empathy and acting with integrity both shape the way that I lead. I place a great deal of emphasis on building relationships that have honesty at the heart.
What myths would you like to debunk about female leaders?
The conventional wisdom that strong leaders can’t be caring or show weakness still needs to be dispelled. Time and time again in my discussions with aspiring and existing leaders, these come up as qualities that teams very much admire in their leaders.
Early in my career, as a new leader, a member of my team revealed very sensitively how much it affected the rest of the team if I was panicking. I hadn’t realised the extent of how our emotions ‘escape’ onto those around us. It really made me reflect on my own behaviour as a leader. I went on to study emotional contagion in more depth, and ultimately that one piece of feedback hugely developed my leadership understanding. It also led to a continuing fascination with the fact that our intention doesn’t always match the impact we have on those whom we lead!
I enjoy a wide range of educational and wider leadership reading.
“There’s Only One Way of Life, and That’s Your Own.”
These song lyrics from one of my favourite bands, The Levellers, remind me to have confidence in my own way of doing things, to have faith in the choices I make, and not to worry too much about how others might see me.