Resilient Leadership Case Study: Greater Manchester Challenge

We have recently been involved in one of our most sensitive role play challenges to date and we and the client are delighted with the outcome.

What the client wanted

The client is Greater Manchester Challenge, a government funded initiative to support the leadership of challenged schools in the Greater Manchester area. The Resilient Leadership Programme was designed and delivered as a collaboration between Brathay Trust ( and Impromptu Ltd to provide Head Teachers of these challenged schools the skills and confidence to lead them to success.

The sensitivity required of this solution was a response to the extremely demanding, public and pressured environment in which the Head Teachers operate and related to the fact that leaders in this position often feel an acute sense of exposure, vulnerability and loneliness.

It was agreed that the programme needed to be highly practical in orientation and therefore it was proposed that professional role play would be the ideal method to incorporate. However, at the same time role play needed to be used in such as way as to ensure that the Head Teachers left the programme enabled and confident.

What we did

The Lead Consultant from Impromptu worked very closely with the Lead Consultant and Lead Facilitator from Brathay to generate a stretching, practical, sensitive and integrated solution. The role play element of this solution (the second day of a two day programme) utilised two methods.

Firstly, Integrated Forum Theatre featured throughout the morning. This involved the participants engaging with two purpose written case studies built around two different, fictional ‘challenged’ schools. Through the various elements of the extended forum theatre activities the real Head Teachers worked closely with the ‘fictional’ Head Teachers of the schools in the case studies (portrayed by Impromptu professional role players) to improve their capability to manage difficult conversations with members of the teaching staff.

The form theatre was broken down into stages. These stages enabled the participants to focus in detail on specific elements of the meeting, relate this to various communication and behavioural tools introduced on the previous day and, thereby, to seamlessly fuse theory and practice. It was clear from responses on the day that the participants found the case studies and the portrayal of the protagonists to be relevant, realistic and stimulating.

Second, One-on-one Forum Role Playing was the focus for the afternoon. In order to create an optimal, safe, stretching and confidential learning environment, each of the participants had an opportunity to work privately with one of the two role players to practice a real and current challenge faced in their school.

The role players used their skills and experience with role play, coaching and facilitation to ensure that each of the Head Teachers had an opportunity to gain some practical and transferable insights, not only into how they might resolve the specific issue, but, perhaps more importantly, to gain a further, invaluable insight into their leadership impact.

The outcomes

The participants each indicated that they had gained a great deal of practical benefit from the experience, taking away strategies for dealing with specific situations and challenges as well as a deeper understanding of their personal qualities and strengths as leaders.

Following this very successful pilot, it has already been agreed that there will be further programmes to support other Head Teachers in achieving their personal leadership potential, and consequently the potential of their schools and, most importantly, the potential of the children educated in them.

“Working in partnership with Impromptu has helped us to considerably enhance the impact of the programme. Fully integrating their role play and coaching capability enables us to offer our clients a very rich learning experience.”

George Sharpe, Lead Consultant, Brathay Trust