Leading collaboration

Effective leadership is a defining characteristic of communities that  make a difference for students. Successful CoL | Kāhui Ako appointees need to be able to demonstrate the capabilities and expertise to frame, support and lead the work of a collective of leaders, professionals, students and community members.

CoL | Kāhui Ako leadership roles are complex and dynamic. The roles require more than a replication of the knowledge and skill-sets required to lead a school. Those appointed to CoL | Kāhui Ako leadership roles require the evaluative capabilities necessary to lead evidence-based collaborative inquiry and to identify and understand what is working and what needs to change. Alongside these abilities, leaders have to be nimble – knowing where and when changes to practice or approaches need to happen.

The roles require leadership among leaders. They are roles of influence rather than authority, where deliberate facilitation is carried out within flat power structures. Leaders need to be flexible and responsive enough to involve a range of internal and external expertise and to determine when these contributions are most relevant.

Leadership is networked at different levels in the community from the institutional to the whole. Leaders coordinate support and enact effective collaboration by seeking the perspectives, and tapping into the aspirations of professionals, students, parents and whänau. The roles require a strong focus on building and sustaining relational trust at each level of the community.

We know a lot about the evidence base for effective network leadership but we don’t know much yet about how this will play out in the unique New Zealand CoL | Kāhui Ako environment. There is a lot to be done to enhance the capabilities of the people appointed to leadership roles because their effectiveness in leading collective change and driving improvement will underpin the success of CoL | Kāhui Ako.


The big picture
  • Leadership has a clear focus on achieving equity and excellence in student outcomes in every CoL | Kāhui Ako institution.
  • Leadership collaboratively develops and pursues the CoL | Kāhui Ako vision, goals and challenges.
  • CoL | Kāhui Ako members have a shared understanding of the roles and responsibilities of those in leadership roles.
  • Leadership supports, coordinates and leads effective collaboration, building relational trust at every level of the CoL | Kāhui Ako.
  • Leadership ensures that organisational structures, processes and practices strengthen and sustain collaborative activity and focussed professional learning to improve teaching and student outcomes.
  • Leadership builds collective capacity to do and use evaluation and inquiry for sustained improvement.


What have we found so far?

Leadership roles

CoL | Kāhui Ako leaders are in the early stages of their tenure, with the first of the current CoL | Kāhui Ako leaders appointed in October 2015. The processes for appointing the Across CoL | Kāhui Ako teachers and the Within School teachers and ensuring replacements are in place for some of these roles can take up to six months following the initial appointment of the CoL | Kāhui Ako leader. This effectively slows the implementation process. However, the time taken to ensure the roles are embedded, the role descriptions well defined and ways of working agreed by member schools is worthwhile in providing a strong platform for the  CoL | Kāhui Ako to implement its achievement plan.

We found that CoL | Kāhui Ako leaders are likely to be prime initiators in their communities and may have taken a lead role in earlier networks of which they were part. In general they have the confidence of their colleagues and have developed a rapport through the establishment phase. They also have the support of their board and colleagues to apply for the role. All but three of the CoL | Kāhui Ako leader roles have had only one applicant.

The appointment and role definition of Across CoL | Kāhui Ako teacher roles are critically important to the functioning of the CoL | Kāhui Ako. Appointees to these roles provide the contextual and task specific leadership vital to modelling collaborative engagement and facilitating changes to practice across the CoL | Kāhui Ako. In the most effective instances, CoL | Kāhui Ako leaders are thinking more innovatively about how they use the available resources by appointing roles in areas such as evaluation or professional practice as well as the more commonly tagged roles related to their achievement challenges.

Role specific training and development

There is a clear need for specific training in the new leadership roles. The roles are unique and differ from institutional leadership at each level because they are roles of influence that require a new frame of reference to work collectively and responsively with professional colleagues and community members.

The leadership forums promoted through the Education Council are being well received because they provide the opportunity to learn from experts and each other. These forums are well attended by both confirmed appointees and prospective leaders, but there is also a case to focus specifically on those who have been appointed so that development can be more targeted, particularly in areas such as change leadership and leading collaborative practices.

Similarly, the Across CoL | Kāhui Ako teachers have specific development needs resulting from the roles they play. They have a different set of complexities from that of the overall leader because the role requires appointees to work across the schools in a close relationship with individual school principals and managers.

We found some instances where Across CoL | Kāhui Ako teachers were meeting resistance from individual principals about their role in critiquing data and practice. This may be a result of the CoL | Kāhui Ako not fully resolving matters of relational trust and communication at the early stages of development, or it may be about developing better ways of working. It does however point to the need for specific training to undertake the role, whether this is facilitated internally or by an expert partner. 

Perceptions about the leadership role

We found some evidence of CoL | Kāhui Ako wanting to operate with different leadership arrangements. This usually took the form of a desire to share or rotate the role or to abdicate the role in favour of a facilitator. These alternatives generally arise from concerns about the time the role will take from a principal’s own school and the extra workload involved, or they may stem from a genuine interest in the notion of distributed leadership.

As noted above, the role of a CoL | Kāhui Ako Leader entails a considerably different skill set that does not really lend itself to being passed around. That is not to say that different members of the CoL | Kāhui Ako cannot assume various leadership roles at different times or that roles could not be distributed among CoL | Kāhui Ako members wanting to share aspects of leadership. The fact is that every principal/manager has a critical leadership role in her/his school/service in relation to the agreed challenges and collaborative plan of action.

Confident leaders in endorsed CoL | Kāhui Ako are thinking innovatively about how they use the resources available to them and can see the reciprocal benefits of building management capability in their own school while furthering their own skill set in the new role.

CoL | Kāhui Ako leaders are finding the national criteria for the CoL | Kāhui Ako appointment process has helped them clarify CoL | Kāhui Ako priorities and directions particularly with regard to shaping role descriptions. Members of the New Appointments National Panel are providing CoL | Kāhui Ako with clarity about the expectations for appointments.