Is your headteacher a people person?
Not all headteachers have their heads screwed on. But those that do, make their staff feel valued. They put relationships first and they get the most from everyone.
We’ve all worked with different types of headteachers who adopt a range of leadership styles but there is one constant. Of all the leadership skills used in headship, communication is the most essential.
A headteacher who is a “people person” stands out a mile and for all the right reasons. They don’t go out of their way to be liked but they do go out of their way to get to know everyone. They are visible, they know their school and as such they are often well liked and highly respected.
A head teacher who can’t relate well with others is not going to receive much discretionary effort. Those that craft relationships with their team bring about this “Buck’s fizz” effect. As Andrew Moorish describes, a headteacher is the Chief Energy Officer (CEO) who mixes rigour and vigour to create conditions of growth and buy-in. These aren’t the sort of headteachers who have their own car-parking spaces or heads in the clouds either.
Head and shoulders above
Being a ‘people person’ can simply mean being friendly and getting along with others. But it goes much further than that. A closeness to people at every level of the school community is important so that everyone feels valued. They see every member of staff as a teacher too.
An effective leader won’t distance themselves from the people they work with either professionally of personally. You don’t achieve champagne moments in a school without brilliant relationships and being a pogo-stick player.
On a professional level, the “Buck’s Fizz” headteacher creates the conditions for staff to grow and bubble. Everyone is clear about what they need to do and they know there is a standard expected of them. They know they will be supported.
Headteachers want their staff and pupils to succeed so they do their best to ensure that everyone in their school gets the very best deal the school can offer. They focus on impact and happiness.
So what do these “people person” headteachers do?
Heads that put people first and value relationships:
- say “Good morning” with every member of staff
- talk to colleagues about the work they are doing and listen!
- check on progress and find out what support people need
- work to remove barriers so staff can do their job
- motivate and keep everyone in the positive zone
- say “we” rather than “I”, set team goals and let everyone know “we are all in this together“
- retain respect for colleagues in difficult and challenging discussions
- start from the assumption that colleagues always try their best
- are genuinely interested in their colleagues as people
- chat about and share interests
- remember family situations and respond to them
- are sensitive to personal issues and circumstances
- laugh, joke and banter but never gossip
- will go the extra mile for those that need help
- are able to distinguish between someone’s worth as a colleague and their worth as a person
- keep a cool head when dealing with problems
- meet things head-on and get things done
- are tenacious and don’t give up on people, even toxic staff
- keep an open door
- socialise with their team
- prize and prioritise their wellbeing and ensure staff are happy and in the ‘blue zones‘
- possess confident fallibility allowing others to trust in them
- aren’t heroic superheads but share the responsibility and the glory
- realise which members of staff might not be getting on with each other
- know which teacher who is under pressure from a parent
- understands who has the heaviest workload and who is putting on a brave face
- work their staff hard and are honest with them
- follow a 24-hour rule of feeding back to their team
- nurture but let their best teachers go
- say that good is good enough and don’t expect anyone to be outstanding
- create fellowship and followship
- seek confidential and non-judgemental support for themselves
- recognise that communication is a two-way street
- coach, don’t tell
- facilitate, influence and empower
Keep your head
Great headteachers can read the magnetic field of their school to help them navigate the currents that sweep the corridors and classrooms. They also seem to possess the infrared vision of snakes and the ultrasonic hearing of dolphins.
Okay, that might be going too far but what I’m saying is that headteachers know their school and know their staff. They are resourceful, know how to reach a variety of people in many different ways and lead by example. They have unconditional positive regard for their pupils and as @southgloshead says, they “don’t wait for staff to struggle.”
If you have a good head then you’ll want to work your socks off for that person. If that head really is a good one then they won’t let you. They’ll put you first and tell you to go home early and spend some time with your family or taking the dog for a walk. A good headteacher cares.