Executive Leadership

Thinking Like a Boss

Being a school leader involves much more than taking on a new title and more responsibility. It involves growth and skill development, which can and should occur at all career stages. Heather Clements outlines steps and strategies teachers can take to put themselves on track for successful career progression.

Until comparatively recently, the notion of leadership within schools, and particularly primary schools, was undeveloped. Of course, schools had leaders but they were called ‘Head Teachers’ and they had ‘Deputy Head Teachers’ who took over when they weren’t there – and often did the boring bits. The implication of the title was that their role was to lead teaching, and I can recall passionately defending this position as a head in the early nineties, when Local Management of Schools was introduced, giving schools more autonomy over their budgets, leaving me resenting the amount of time I hade to devote to grounds maintenance contracts and utilities. Headteachers were provided with no training beyond an apprenticeship model of being a deputy to someone else. Exceptional Heads were often charismatic and individualistic, making their approach hard to replicate. When I became a head, my knowledge of leadership was underpinned by a list of things I shouldn’t do – not all of these were helpful, and many were based on very negative experiences – one even warned, “don’t buy a school cat”.

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