What are you looking for in your new Head of School?
Seemingly NOT making a decision is actually making a decision to just let things stay the way they are. Decision made--but probably not very satisfactorily for anyone (except those that despise change no matter what). Too often
Board members who make their living in their corporate world can get frustrated with the process-orientation of most schools. They don't always understand why it can take so long for a decision to be reached. They don't always understand why so many people "have to" chime in, but we all recognize that some decisions will be better received if there are opportunities for input and for buy in. Some decisions, if not all, will never get full buy in. Good leaders recognize that you can't please all of the people all of the time, and part of what makes them a good leader is that they are OK with that.
Faculty members want a Head of School who knows how to make decisions, knows when to seek input—sincerely wants it and listens to it—and knows when to just be the leader and make the decision without over-processing it. Faculty wants a leader who truly gets the fine art of decision making and one who knows how to communicate about the decision--with appropriate transparency. Let people know what was decided, even when the outcome might not be what some of those sought voices wanted to hear. Don't ask for input when the decision has already been made. Faculty hate that.
This is a question we ask everyone when we are on a campus meeting with faculty, students, and parents as we begin the conversations to prepare for a Head of School search. Different schools, different needs but there are trends. One answer that might at first surprise is the one we hear consistently from faculty. Doesn't matter if the school is big or small, serves the big or small, or if it is a school 100 years old or ten.input is sought and then nothing happens; that makes faculty crazy….analysis paralysis runs amuck in too many schools.
I recently spoke with an individual who ran a very large company. His top criteria in hiring decisions was gaining a sense of the candidate's decision-making abilities. He believes that great organizations are staffed from top to bottom with great decision makers. I've wrestled with that idea, trying to apply it to a school setting. Not sure it works in a classroom, but it definitely works at the top.
There are certainly a few other top items on the typical faculty members wish list—like someone who knows his name, has her back, or moving up the list since 2008—how to raise money, but being a wise decision maker and communicating about that decision in a straightforward manner is on the list 99.9% of the time.
Have you made a decision today? And, if the answer is yes, did you tell anyone about it?