The personal learning network for educators
For generations, the Great British public have become used to the stereotypical headteacher and have revered them as being strong, committed, principled and leading from the front often taking no prisoners.
I can't help but think that headship must have been a lonely place in those days. It still can be remote but the days of heads saying to staff and parents "Do it because I say so!" are fewer and further between. I can remember my early days of headship and revering those ever so dominant heads who led from the front without ever questioning themselves or their actions, knowing instinctively that their decisions were correct because their wealth of experience told them so.
What I've come to realise is that these "superheads" questioned themselves probably just as much as I do as a leader but always behind closed doors. To admit to not having the answer was weakness and weakness would be exploited!
However if we are to model our schools as continual learning and growing organisations, then as lead learners, we need to own up to a basic principle.
This principle is that as heads, we get things wrong. It's only by making mistakes that we learn. The next step for any learner is therefore critical. It's what we do with the learning gained from making mistakes in order to improve ourselves and the outcome for others, which really matters.
The "owning up" bit of making mistakes is a critical aspect of delegated leadership, which I'll come back to in a minute.
Why delegate leadership? I'm not sure the job of effective school leadership is do-able any more by one leader. The organisation has to be more efficient if leadership is delegated because more leaders means more discreet work at a micro organisational level. This improves the number and quality of opportunities for our children. In essence all of our staff are leaders of learning, it just depends on the extent to which this is carried out.
More leaders means that we develop the ethos of sensible risk taking amongst staff and they demonstrate to the children that sensible well thought through risks are worth taking and that we can learn by our mistakes. The staff are therefore modeling risk taking and the ability to learn from mistakes to the children. This is critical in a world where children are often chastised for taking risks or making mistakes.
Watching a member of staff grow professionally through their exposure to leadership challenge is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. One of my roles as a head until I retire is to leave a legacy of quality leaders who can continue the work that I feel is so valuable. Seeing people I have worked with assume Deputy Headship and Headship roles gives me a great buzz! Seeing people previously discarded in different settings, for one reason or another and feeling useless, who then achieve huge things because they are valued as leaders is incredibly encouraging and satisfying in a human sense.
Finally, every one of us likes to feel that we have a role to play in our destiny and perhaps that of others. Seeing our school come together and evaluating how our school is moving forward through everyone's efforts is extremely rewarding and builds team spirit and a oneness of mission for the school.
Critical to all of this is a sense of vision in terms of where the school is going and this has to be created, shared, understood and lived by everyone.
The final part of delegated leadership is perhaps the most important. Trust. The staff must know that I trust them. Yes, they are going to make mistakes, but if these are honest mistakes I will defend them to the hilt as long as learning from the mistake leads to a better solution.
Would I rather be a superhead or a delegated leader? I guess it depends on who you are and what makes you tick but I couldn't be a superhead pretending I don't make mistakes and I love seeing other people succeed for the greater benefit of our school and its kids. What about you?