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Agents of Aspiration - Aspire to Aspire

“What do you want it to look like?”

It is a question that an architect might ask someone before starting a design, and one every leader asks themselves as they start their journey with those they are leading. Seth Godin said that leadership was to “paint a picture of the future, go there, and people will follow.” Howard Gardner said that “leadership is the ability to create a story that affects the thoughts, feelings and actions of others.” Among all these questions and statements sits the premise that leadership is about ‘aspiration’. As leaders we are ‘agents of aspiration’ and so, this month, we will explore what aspiration is about. We will explore:

· Aspire to aspire

· Buy the WHY

· Mindsets Matter

· Agents of Change


Have you ever considered what ‘aspiration’ is? The dictionary defines it as ‘a strong desire to achieve something high or great’. At a recent training session, some of the participants also explored how it is an ongoing journey, not just a single destination. It is about an attitude, a mindset and something that evolves.

Delve a little further into the dictionary and you spot that ‘aspiration’ also means ‘the act of breathing and especially of breathing in’. There is no coincidence to these two meanings. Think about the concept of aspiring to something high or great. In order to do that you have to have some ideas of what is out there to aspire to. In order to aspire to great things, we need to know what great things could look like. Another word that signifies breathing in is ‘inspire’, and as a good friend of mine, Trevor Waldock, once said to me, “In order to inspire we need to inspire. If we hope to inspire others with fresh thinking, we need to breathe in fresh thinking ourselves. If we only breathe in stale air, we will then breathe out stale air to others.” This same principle applies to aspiration. If we hope to aspire to great things, we need to breathe in ideas of what it could look like.

Your cultural capital

In schools, a recent discussion has been on what cultural capital we offer to our children. The principle of this is to understand what cultural experiences our children are having. To ask, ‘what do they need in order to widen their understanding of what is available to them, and that could shape their aspiration?’ For example, if children have not experienced certain sports or cultural arts, how can they begin to consider what they might want to aspire to? This is not just about offering wider arts experience; it is about leadership principles and 3 core P’s:

· Position - Where are we at the moment?

· Proposal - Where could we be?

· Plan - What experiences do we need to develop knowledge and skills to help us aspire to something greater?

As leaders, we then plan for that. What do we need to breathe in, in order to help us aspire? It starts with us. What do I need to read or watch to open my eyes to potential? What do my team need to experience, read or watch to develop their understanding?

One year, when I was a headteacher, I took my school leadership team on an early morning trip to Hackney to visit a number of schools. This was a research trip for them to see first-hand what schools with challenging circumstances could achieve. It broadened our cultural capital. It enabled us to see what could be achieved.


This blog series is entitled ‘Agents of Aspiration’. As leaders, we are agents of aspiration, bringing about change. The thing about agents is that they:

· Represent, at all times, what they are an agent of

· are a catalyst to spark aspiration

So, when we breathe in to help us shape what the future could look like, we inhale possibility. When we share this, we become the spark to set it aflame in others. Let’s aspire to help others aspire.


Can we help you?

Are you struggling for inspiration? Unclear of what picture you want to paint for others?

We could help you through coaching to discover your why, how and what? Everyday Leader’s team of coaches can help you understand what is going on in your head and how you can manage your emotions and other people in those moments. Give us a call on 01449 710438 if you would like us to help you explore this and empower you and your team.

Everyday Leader is here to empower, inspire and equip you to do that. If we can help you find a way forward, through coaching, training or consultancy, do let us know. Contact us now:


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