The eight traits of a stand out leader: Andrew Morrish

Andrew Morrish, chief executive of Victoria Academies Trust in the West Midlands, makes the case for being a stand-out leader, in this extract from his new book The Art of Standing Out.  

What you choose to do in your school is up to you. It’s all good and fine by me. I have no pre-conceived ideas of what you want to get up to. The Art of Standing Out is not about doing things in a certain way, but about the way of doing certain things. That’s the whole point of this book, that you go about creating a stand out school in a way that is wholesome and nourishing for all based on what you believe to be right.

And when you do, the only person who is ever going to hold you to account is you, for it is against your own expectations, dreams and aspirations that your success will be judged. Set these too low and at best all you will create is a good school, a grey school. But if it’s a great school you strive for, then aim higher and create one that stands out in its own unique way. So now it’s over to you.

That said, all I do ask is that if you are the sort of leader that likes to manage a school that runs like clockwork, stop. Sit yourself down and ask yourself this: Wouldn’t it be fun if every now and then instead of ticking along nicely, you tocked? That’s all. I’m only asking the question.

So assuming that you’ve created a really great base camp, have tightened up, loosened up and powered up and that staff feel as if they belong, believe and most importantly know how to behave, then we are all set.

Your school will be tocking along nicely. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the children: Just make sure that they know that their school is the best party in town.

So here then are the eight traits of a stand out leader:

1. Articulate often: A stand out leader is a tenacious storyteller who will always find ways of sharing their vision at every opportunity. They are able to paint an authentic picture that is based on a compelling set of values and beliefs. Stand out leaders write, and write often because they always have something to say that’s worth sharing.

2. Energise often: A stand out leader is a great motivator skilled at convincing others to follow. Their approach is highly contagious and they are able to radiate and generate boundless reserves of energy with equal aplomb. Stand out leaders are masters of momentum and are able to energise through authenticity and action.

3. Celebrate often: Stand out leaders are forever noticing things so that they can seize on success and celebrate when staff and children do the right thing (even if at times it might not be right – yet). They are obsessed with excellence, ensuring they always do good as they go.

4. Fail often: A stand out leader embraces self-deprecation and has the humility and good grace to fail skilfully, and often. They doubt themselves frequently and are skilful at harnessing their vulnerability into action. They create security and resilience by focusing on the importance of base camp.

5. Question often: Stand out leaders always look for the second right answer by asking better questions. They create a success culture by asking ‘what if..?’ so that creativity and innovation are embraced by all. Above all, when stand out leaders are questioned by outsiders, they stand firm and are not afraid to push back. They do not flinch.

6. Dismantle often: Stand out leaders are curious and are never complacent. First and foremost, they are changemakers. Even when things are going well they are not afraid to review, refresh and relaunch. Cautiously reckless at all times, stand out leaders are constantly looking for solutions, knowing when the moment is right to take risks.

7. Imagine often: Stand out leaders are great thinkers. They understand that the more they know about something, the more imaginative they can be about it. Stand out leaders use their imagination to enable them to dream carefully and creatively when coming up with new ideas that add value. Above all, stand out leaders love to play and encourage others to do the same.

8. Discover often: A stand out leader has an innate thirst for new learning, continually ahead of the game and always wanting to know what’s coming next. They are highly skilled gate-keepers and can distil and filter to maintain focus. Always on the hunt for great ideas, they shine their light to encourage others to shine theirs, knowing that the best place to start is in their own back yard.

The Art of Standing Out, published by John Catt Educational and available now, is the culmination of 18 years of experience as a Head for Andrew Morrish, who has a proven and unblemished record for transforming challenging schools from special measures to outstanding.

Blending personal insight with tried-and-tested strategies, The Art of Standing Out is a powerful blueprint for all ambitious Heads, senior leadership teams and governing bodies, demonstrating how schools can be led from the brink of closure to world-class centres of learning.

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Categories: 1st POST, Guest Post and Leadership.


  1. Soarpoints

    SchoolsImprove AndrewDMorrish MaryMyatt excellent – 10 copies of Andrew’s book just landed on my desk for use at ChallonerCFS – fabulous

  2. When a successful person reflects on what made them successful, they will always find it difficult to separate the effective things they did from the ones they thought were important.
    Anecdotal evidence can be dangerous:  we should put our trust in research reviews and independent evidence.

  3. miss_downes

    AndrewDMorrish SchoolsImprove thanks for my summer holiday read taster, looks great U0001f44dU0001f3fb


    andysquires1 Denbigh_TSA yes, typically thoughtful list from AndrewDMorrish who’s a great WholeEducation leader- look 4rd to the book!

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