Patrick Duignan – Leading in Schools is a Ministry of Presence

Hi all,

Today I had three professional development sessions with Professor Patrick Duignan. I took 20 pages of notes and I have been processing them all night. Here is the first session – I hope you find it interesting – I will be coming back to it.

Session 1
Leading in Schools is a Ministry of Presence

Patrick did a presentation on how you can influence students in your school and their outcomes. Everyone contributes to the leadership in the school. He commented that he supervised the PhD that was the basis for the Student Growth Model which is implemented in our school then he referred to “personalising learning in the school”.

Some key points about leadership he covered include:

1. Leadership is relational involving high engagement and communication – so you better get that right.

At this stage you have to have a message to get across and I think a lot of time we may not have a message to get across – or we have not thought clearly what our message is. Anyway I digress – make sure there are no interruptions and take every “interruption” as an opportunity to influence who I work with.

So presence is the key to leadership. He suggested that we think of leaders who are present for you so you have the opportunity to get the message across. For the person I am thinking of (I could not think of one person) he had three questions.

a. Think of someone who has presence for you.
b. How does he or she do this for you? What is it about them? Are they available
c. What can you learn from them?

“Presence is about who you are rather than what you do.”

2. Leadership is an influence relationship

By this he means it is a process of influence leading to the achievement of goals. He represented this situation by an equation in the negative.

No Presence = No relationship = No Influence = No Leadership

From the students’ perspective research indicates influential teachers are those that make me feel good about myself, , make me feel valued and make a contribution – no mention about the subjects .

My thought in this is Lance Armstrong –“It’s not about the bike” sums it up for me.

3. Professional development must have a moral purpose.

Here Patrick suggested we personalised the mission statement for example, “ the best possible all round education”. For me mine is to be “useful and happy” not really high level educational thinking but I feel it works for me.

4. Cultivate the self.

Here I immediately thought of Buddhism and then I was pleased to hear that he too picked up on the idea from his Buddhist reading. The catholic version of the similar concept is to “’cultivate the intellect”. Then he broke things into three points:
a. What are our values?
b. Do I Iive my values?
c. How can I do better?

For all three the question is: How do I do this in my relationships. The following is a quote that won’t appear in the PPT presentation but I liked it. Often the best things come from the off shoot discussions from the PPT.

“Leadership is in the heads of other people” – people make this decision through relationships.

In reverse these are the two things that poor leaders do:
a. Don’t reflect
b. Don’t seek or listen to feedback

What is Presence

1. Presence is when you are “fully conscious and aware in the present moment.

Refers to John O’Donohoe “Eternal Echos” and how presence is the way a person’s soul comes to you” the “soul texture of the person”.

2. There is a Ministry in the presence of leaders.

Ministry in presence means living and valuing the ministry of the present moment. It also means recognising and acknowledging the gift is the other – ie made in God’s image. Also take into account the sacredness of the space between us – like indigenous people.

3. There is a dignity in presence. Gave the example of General Cosgrove.

“It is wonderful to behold a person who inhabits his/her dignity.”
“Your presence inevitably reveals what you think of yourself.”

4. There is a spirituality to presence

Sister Gemma Simmonds ”The God in me reveals the God in you”.

5. There is a heart to presence

“The heart is the inner face of your life”. We use language of the heart to describe relationships.

NB: At this point there was a bit of another side comment worthwhile following up.
a. If you influence you are a leader. “You will be named”. For me this got me thinking – what is the significance of being named? Do you want to be named.
b. Leadership leaves a legacy behind.
c. Challenge: be present to yourself with the view to improve yourself.

6. Presence of the group

“Mutually supportive presence generates a dynamic influence field , pulsating with energy, promise, hope and possibility”. This creates a certain set of interactions – relationships.

7. Fields of influence.

Here Patrick talked about the idea of no such thing of indirect influence – you either have influence or you don’t have influence. Or strong or weak influence. Negative influence is not leadership only positive influence.

8. Presence and the leader

Who you are not what you do is the essence of presence.

After thoughts

“Unity of hearts through love” Ignatius
“You do what I cannot do . I cannot do what you do. Together we can do great things”. Mother Theresa

Verse of the Song “The Other Side Ann Murry”

On the other side of doubt is faith
On the other side of pain is strength
The journey may seem endless
And you know the road is rough
On the other side of fear is love.

cheers Martin


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