Every school year ends with me presenting to schools with how they need to prepare their next crop of leaders. Unfortunately, in independent schools, leaders are like crops where the turnover in supervisory to senior leadership roles is incredibly high; for example, the average tenure for a Head of School, in international schools, is 3.5 years. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to achieve much. What’s worse is that teachers and administrators are being promoted and moved around constantly without being prepared adequately for their next role. So, my advice to all schools is fairly in line with the image I have chosen for this article:
- Many middle leaders are promoted based on their technical expertise and diligence. However, what made them stand out in their previous role may not translate into success in their next role. Awareness of Self is an incredibly important characteristic of leaders. This ability is reflected in a person’s ability to reflect on and adapt their own behavior and actions. Leadership development activities that reinforce this can be as simple as self-directed learning with peers or as sophisticated as taking personality assessments. The best time of year for this is in Spring, when there is plenty to reflect on, including the state of a person’s relationships with others at the end of the school year. The state of those relationships will also inform us on the health of the leader’s networks.
- Provided the leader has the capacity to demonstrate their ability to reflect and adapt, we need to next prepare them to have Awareness of Others. Effective leaders help team members reflect on their own behavior and actions, especially how they affect others. Good leaders don’t lead members, they lead a team. Leadership development activities that develop this skill include understanding how teams develop and what types of support are needed for teams as they progress through different stages of development. Its important to realize that not everyone enters a team with equal capacity and the same skill sets. Therefore, effective leaders need to learn how to differentiate their approach to different team members and delegate accordingly. The best time of year for these activities is before kids return to school. In fact, the first meeting should be about creating awareness of self and others by reflecting on work style preferences and group norms.
- Lastly, with the team humming along, leaders should be able to remove themselves from the day-to-day activities of the team, yet still stay connected to the work of the team. When the leader can take a step back, they can reflect on what the team is capable of, make goals and manage team performance relative to those goals. Leadership development activities that develop this capacity include mentoring, coaching, incremental budget authority, inclusion in school strategic initiatives and management skills training, such as performance management. This form of training should be reserved for last and candidates should be nominated for these activities based on their desire to lead and demonstrating mastery of the first two stages.