There are many types of leadership that exists in schools. If leadership is less than desirable, how does it manifest itself?
In my 8th year of school leadership, I have much to learn, but I’d be a fool to admit that everything is perfect. It’s not.
Sadly, in schools and in school leadership there are bullies, many egos and the occasional school leader who is just not up to doing the job required. Thankfully it is rare, but it does exist.
The chances are, they are probably not reading this.
The Problem Exists …
Now, before I begin to outline what I think is poor in school leadership I have encountered, let me stress from the outset that I am no guru or personification of perfection. I am not. But, this post is not about me. It’s about what I know.
I would be doing a disservice to the profession and to my readers if I did not recognise that poor leadership does exist, or fail to talk about it and address the problem.
Recently I wrote about the 7 Traits of Effective Teachers and 21 Leadership Habits. From an amalgamation of both posts, it can be assumed that what is written here is in stark contrast to the qualities listed in those posts.
10 Poor Leadership Attributes:
These are attributes that undermine a team of senior leaders in schools and damage the hearts and minds of colleagues working in schools. What’s worse, is what impact is poor leadership having on students?
The poor leader lacks passion, they are disorganised and fail to reflect on what works. The rarely seek feedback.
2. Play Safe
Poor leaders do not embrace change – for example, may continue with grading lesson observations for control – and do not allow their teaching staff to take risks. They do not keep up to speed with DfE and Ofsted changes, often citing the latter for control and fear over systems of accountability in school. What’s worse, is that they are probably wrong and don’t even know it. Inexperienced teachers or those not in positions of power have their opinions muted and are shut down.
Poor leaders do not share ideas and resources and fail to encourage collaboration in others. They are closed to new ideas, methods and even colleagues new to the school. They may be in a school for a quick-fix to promotion …
The worst quality of all is inconsistency. Poor leaders lack substance on the corridors and in the playground, but more significant, is that they lack any credibility in the classroom. They fail to take their own teaching seriously, use status and school systems to control students before allowing learning to take place. They are inconsistent in their own classroom, as well as using approaches when dealing with behaviour (in-line with school policy).
This can be something as simple as not turning up to a duty spot, or failing to meet their own deadlines in-line with the school calendar. What’s worse, is that poor leaders do not set their own cover for their own classes, or they do not do what they said they would do.
An example of this, is a teacher asking for support on the corridors or in a lesson with a particular class – a cry for help perhaps – and that the school leader says that they will support at XYZ time and place, but fail to do so.
Poor school leaders use their position of power to make decisions – especially the wrong ones – or steam ahead when they are clearly against the majority. Sometimes position of power can manifest itself into various forms of bullying; often non-verbal around the working environment through emails, deadlines and final decision-making.
7. Trust / Respect
In this example, you never know if poor leaders are ‘slagging off’ the school’s decisions or your own! We all know we have to share confidential information about colleagues from time to time, or need to update each other with ‘he said this’ and ‘she did that’, but there is a line that should not be crossed in school leadership.
Respect all of your colleagues and maintain trust in all those that you work with. We are all human …
Some school leaders are delighted in their decisions, taking more than pleasure in observing a colleague’s unhappiness. They lack compassion and do not see the merit in talking through the thought processes of how decisions are made and why they need to be made. You will often hear them say: “It’s a school decision … and you just need to get on with it!”
9. Leading CPD
The poor school leader does not engage with whole-school professional development. They are still of the belief that CPD is a sit-down-at-the-front INSET style event in the school hall, and that gaining new knowledge is only gathered from ‘going on a course’ and having a lunch in a hotel.
There are two kinds here at opposing ends of the spectrum. The first, who can count on one hand the last time that attended external training in the last 10 years, and the second who is ‘on-training’ once every other week and is rarely in school. This is often evident at various points in the school year: the start of autumn term when the conference circuit begins and new DfE announcements and exam qualifications are shared. Or, in the depths and darks of the winter and in the examination season when the going gets tough on the ground.
They may even go on an INSET day or two in June and July when it is even easier to get out of school when the examination season is over. Either way, the information is rarely shared and has little impact on the organisation.
Finally, we all know the school leader who marches the school corridors, barking rules and abuse at students. Every school needs a voice to whip students into shape, but not when shouting becomes abusive or disruptive to the environment.
Worse, is when the school leader walks past another colleague having conversations with a student and uses the 10-20 seconds walking by to ‘add fuel to the fire’. In essence, they tip the student over the edge and unbeknownst to this school leader, this child may have already been the recipient of White Noise and anything in addition to what has already been said, damages any relationship or respect that child ever had for the school or for that leader.
Worse, the colleague is thinking that the school leader has not made the situation any better …
I’m hoping that not too many of the above remind you of someone you have – or still are – working with. I have to say, it is very rare, but if it strikes a chord in you, why not email this to colleagues or print it off and put it on the wall in your staffroom?