Leadership – in any context – requires a distinctive set of talents that are often underdeveloped because the day job simply gets in the way. The burdens placed on leadership teams have increased over time and nowhere has this been truer than in the independent education sector.
Greater expectations are put on independent schools by parents who expect a ‘return on their investment’ and who keep a keener eye than ever before on all aspects of their child’s performance. The rise in power of the ‘dinner party set’ and the influence that social media can have on opinions mean that schools have to avoid dropping the ball and ensure they present a positive, professional and caring face to the world while also ensuring that their numbers continue to improve. I’m quite sure that the responsibilities and challenges of a head teacher of an Independent school today would be unrecognisable to a head teacher from 40 years ago.
The challenges have meant that heads have to move closer to running the school as a commercial enterprise while also retaining its individual nature; not easy. As part of that evolution, schools could do well to look to the business sector and adopt some of the ‘slicker’ approaches that senior teams in the commercial world take to improve and refine their performance.
One of the stand-out approaches adopted by many organisations is the use of insights to improve internal and external communication, create better understanding and appreciation amongst colleagues and create meaningful development plans to turn individuals into great leaders. These programs begin with participants completing an online 20-minute evaluation, which gives them an exclusive personal profile, highlighting their own strengths and weaknesses, communication style, approach to problems and value to the team. Each profile also highlights the differences within the team as a whole, the individual’s personality traits in relation to colleagues, and why they think and act in the way they do.
In addition to teachers, a number of schools are also choosing to profile students. Students are invariably profiled as part of their transition to Sixth Form. For most of them, it is the first time that they have a chance to look at how personalities are formed and how each person can react differently to the same thing. In essence it helps students see the world through the eyes of others.
Whether it is teachers or students, the findings unearthed during the profiling process can be explored in greater depth as part of a dedicated leadership workshop. The potential benefits to leadership teams cannot be overstated. In a world where more and more channels of communication exist and where schools are more and more under the microscope, the importance of great leadership teams is a progressively vital component to a truly successful school. Against what is becoming an uncertain and competitive environment, being first class in every area of school life will ultimately need to become the norm.