This past year, politically, for the UK has been fascinating – I use that word in its broadest sense. As we approach the end of the year, with a general election and continuing uncertainty in so many areas, one aspect I have reflected on is the intense sense of mistrust towards so many political leaders, both at home and abroad. Listening to political debates and public opinion, there seems to be a deep mistrust towards those leaders intending to run our country and make decisions that impact on every element of our lives.
This has given me pause for thought about the qualities and characteristics of leaders we appoint to take charge of our schools. How can we always ensure that we appoint leaders we trust and have confidence in? While we may not always agree with a leader’s decisions, shouldn’t we at least be able to trust and respect them for the way in which they lead?
When recruiting for any level of leadership post, there are three fundamental questions that we often pose, when advising schools. They may sound simplistic, but it can be too easy to overlook one of these vital questions: Does the candidate really want the job? Could the candidate do the job? How would the candidate do the job? I believe that if you can answer each of these questions, with evidence, in alignment with your school’s vision, mission and core values, then you have every likelihood of appointing the right person.
Firstly, do they really want the job? From the way the candidate has approached the whole application and interview process, the interest they have shown in the school and the post, and the reasons they have demonstrated for this being the right job for them, you should get a very clear sense of how much they want, and would value, the job. You don’t want someone approaching the job half-heartedly. Your school needs more than that.
Secondly, could they do the job? This is a question of knowledge, skill and capability. Do their qualifications, track record and experience demonstrate that they are capable at this level of leadership. Certainly, a similar level of experience is ideal, but a previous article I wrote about appointing a ‘wildcard’ will hopefully prove that I’m very open-minded about giving people an opportunity, even if their credentials don’t quite match your expectations. A track record of success should demonstrate their ability to perform a job well, and their potential to step-up and perform at the level required.
Thirdly, and probably the most crucial (and the main reason for this article), is how they would do the job. By this, I don’t simply mean the strategies, tools or processes they would use, I mean how their intrinsic behaviours, beliefs and values impact upon their actions as a leader. Do they demonstrate the qualities, values and characteristics to lead your school in a manner that you would expect; traits such as integrity, compassion, resilience, kindness and respect, and other such important qualities.
My firm belief is that a school leadership recruitment process should be designed to provide you with every opportunity to test and scrutinise all of the above, and allow you to appoint only once you have satisfied yourself of the answers. Your school community must be brave enough to hold off appointing until you know you have identified the person who truly wants the job, who has the skills to do it well and, most importantly, who has the personal qualities you can trust to do it alignment with your school’s core values. No school, organisation or, indeed, country needs a leader who can’t be trusted and respected.