This question was answered by Andy Buck, a former geography teacher turned headteacher turned leadership expert who has written multiple leadership books and now works with senior headteachers across the UK to improve schools and the school system.
Jamie Lawrence, Managing Editor, HRZone: What leadership lessons can organisations learn from schools?
Andy Buck, former headteacher and leadership trainer:
The opportunities in both are broadly similar. I think trust is very important. You have to show that with pupils, parents, teachers, support staff.
There's a good lesson here from delegation. When you delegate something, it’s not a binary decision to delegate or not. There are nuanced levels of delegation where you may have a conversation and that person may go away and do a job but you’ve told them exactly how to do it.
But there are other options, for example the person has some autonomy but they are still going to come and tell you how it went, and get feedback, and then further down the chain they will go away and do it and not even report back to you because you trust them sufficiently that they’ll make the right decision and do what needs to be done.
As you move down those stages of delegation - there are nine levels - you’re showing greater and greater trust and you’re being more empowering.
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As a leader in that situation, you are having to show trust and you are building in that person greater confidence and self-belief and I think that comes through from not giving someone too far down that continuum until they’re ready, but also not staying too near the top when they’re ready to be more autonomous and you aren’t letting them, which can feel like micromanagement.
Being skilful in the way you delegate and empower is a big part of the answer of leadership. The best way to do this is to ask first - what level is someone happy with? Do they want to check in with you? Do they want you to sit with them when they do that?
The other thing I’ve really learnt - and this applies to primary schools but especially to secondary schools - is that middle leaders are the keys to success of these institutions.
You must train your middle leaders to do all the important parts of leadership themselves to build their own sub-culture and climate that fits with the broad one you set for the whole organisation, but gives them some autonomy and focus to get on with things as a team.
About Jamie Lawrence
Jamie Lawrence is editor of global online HR publication and community HRZone.com. He is committed to driving forward the HR agenda and making sure that HR directors have the knowledge and insight necessary to make HR felt across the whole organisation. He regularly speaks to audiences of 250+ and has interviewed key HR industry names, including Daniel H. Pink. He has worked previously as a small business journalist and a copywriter and has published non-fiction that reached #2 on the NYT Children's Bestseller List. In his spare time Jamie likes writing fiction, films, fitness and eating out.