Whatever we can do to support school leaders, we should. School leaders make a significant and positive difference in schools – just ask Professor John Hattie – and a poor fit (even of a highly skilled and highly experienced leader who is just in a place which needs something different) is enormously costly, both financially and emotionally, for all concerned. The tragedy of a poor fit in leadership is that it can result in outstanding leaders deciding to leave school leadership… and in a world which is crying out for great educators to help the next generation do a better job than current and previous generations, then this is absolutely not what any of us want.
So when research comes along which helps school leaders – and boards – to make wise choices in their next step, then we should share it. Last year, the team at LSC Education questioned over 200 leaders in international schools around the world about what had worked (and what hadn’t) in recruitment processes for roles which they had since found to be a good (or poor) cultural fit for them, and the results of this research provide fascinating – and very practical – insights that can be of real use to aspiring and current leaders in international schools (although I would venture to suggest that leaders in almost any school would find that these findings resonate). Insights into personal priorities in choosing a role include the high level of importance attached to shared values… and also the difficulty in identifying these values unless there is significant exposure to school life during the recruitment process; unsurprisingly, perhaps, salary figures are fairly low amongst the main priorities that school leaders have in choosing a role – and what this should flag up to boards is that school leaders will not necessarily behave in the same way as employees in other lines of work with which board members may be familiar (and they certainly can’t just be bought and sold, despite being a much-in-demand commodity).
Above all, the importance emerges of self-awareness – on the part of boards about what their school actually stands for and does, and how they represent themselves and their plans for the future; and on the part of candidates, who need to work out what they really, really want, and what they are best suited for, and then look for the clues and signs that the role for which they are considering applying is actually the right one for them. It has been heartening seeing more candidates seeking out and benefiting from LSC’s career coaching service, and some boards are already very reflective and thoughtful about their recruitment processes, which is extremely encouraging. There is significant work to be done on all fronts, however.
If you were at the IPSEF conference in Dubai in September, or at the FOBISIA Leadership conference in Bangkok last week, then you would have heard me talking about the key findings, and if you are part of the Wellington and Huili Education family in Shanghai, then you will have an opportunity to hear some of the insights during the weekend of 25-26 November. Please do feel free to get in touch directly, however, and certainly download the research report here.
And good luck! Together we can help ensure that the right leaders are in the right schools, making a positive impact. When they are, they will make the difference for young people who the world needs.
Dr Helen Wright, LSC Consultant
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