The six key tasks of headship

Headteachers have key tasks they need to perform to become great leaders of successful schools:

1. Create energy

A head’s own example – what they say, how they behave, who they are – should inspire staff around them. They ask ‘what if’ speculative questions. They are punctual and fussy about appointments so as not to fritter away time. They show interest in all aspects of school life and appreciate optimists and ‘doers’ who offer solutions to problems.

2. Build capacity

A head teacher should teach themselves and be observed by staff doing so. They should rotate chairing of meetings to grow others’ skills. They encourage young staff to be involved in a ‘school improvement group’ and act on their suggestions. They introduce/support a programme of staff development that looks to the future. They share interesting articles and attend industry events and encourage others to do the same. They are generous with praise when something goes right and are accountable when something goes wrong. They use the pronoun ‘we’ rather than ‘I’.

3. Meet and minimise crisis

In a genuine crisis, good head teachers find cause for optimism and hope, for an opportunity to learn. They acknowledge their own mistakes. They see the wider picture while handling the crisis at hand. They should be a willing ‘player’ and happy to turn their hand to any task.

4. Secure and enhance the environment

Classroom teaching and learning materials should be well organised and in plentiful supply. They make sure management arrangements serve the needs of staff and pupils. The staff handbook is regularly updated. Technical support is provided when needed and in a timely manner. Good head teachers improve the staffroom and the school’s whole environment.

5. Seek and chart improvement

Heads should use comparative benchmarking, comparing data between schools. Appreciative enquiry involved finding and celebrating what’s good and searching for what is outstanding, before deciding on a plan of action. Problem solving on the other hand, concerns staff barriers and problems that have cropped up. They require analysis and the creation of possible solutions.

A successful leader seeks to create a climate of appreciative enquiry to handle necessary problem solving. Those who seek and implement improvement celebrate genuine success. They celebrate other social events too – creating a climate in which energy, capacity and ultimate success depend. They are good at ‘collective’ monitoring, reading the whole picture rather than just an individual situation.

6. Extend the vision of what’s possible

This requires being aware of what is in the past, as well as what the ideal future looks like. The present dominates so much of school life and can sometimes feel overwhelming. Telling stories which remind staff of past successes, and alluding to future possibilities, are both things wise leaders do. They are good listeners and readers. They ask ‘why not’ aloud and ‘why’ silently to themselves. 

How we can help

Our Headspace programme is a confidential, personal and professional development tool for all head teachers. It runs over a six or 12 month period and offers a safe and confidential environment where head teachers can explore the most effective leadership behaviours and learn from each other.

We also offer a Yourspace programme for deputy heads. our range of expert consultancy services can help you find out what’s working for your team and what's not.