This is short and to the point. This is not based on leadership styles or the theories of leadership. I have been a head of English and Drama for 9 years, across 2 Bristol city state-schools. I think I’ve picked up a decent understanding of what works, along the way. Here goes:
Eat with your team.
It doesn’t matter how busy you are. Eat with them. Talk, share food, eat. Hiding in your classroom because you’re swamped isn’t conducive to a cohesive team.
Remember – their perception is their reality.
I’m not a postmodernist/social-constructionist but there is a lot to be said for acknowledging this. If somebody perceives that s/he doesn’t have enough time or is always the first to meet deadlines but is never acknowledged, then that’s the reality of the situation for him/her. As a leader, you need to work with this as the premise. ‘Proving’ them wrong with evidence (‘look – Jan’s timetable is much heavier than yours!’) is unhelpful. Acknowledge how s/he feels and go from there.
For everything. From passing you a document, to getting reports done, to holding open a door. It really matters and manners in leaders are conspicuous by their absence.
Get to know your team.
Favourite books. Kids’ names. Where they all grew up. Siblings. This doesn’t mean you have to be mates or Facebook-stalk them. It’s just a good feeling when your leader knows a bit about you.
Give people a break.
Walking past a classroom on a Wednesday period 3 and Shrek is playing? Just pause before you have a stern word. Find out what’s happening first. Ask directly and be human about the response.
Take the difficult kids.
Nothing more to say here, really. Oh, wait. Yes – don’t make the mistake of thinking that your best behaviour manager is ‘fine with having the tricky ones.’ It’s exhausting, even for the best behaviour manager, and you’ll lose a good teacher.
The resident staffroom gossip loves to get people, especially leaders, drawn into conversations that involve picking holes in people. ‘Nope, all great down in the English corridor, thanks!’ works well. Your loyalty will be reciprocated.
For you and for all members of your team. Every time.
Get your hands dirty.
Do the washing up. Buy tea-bags. Clear up the sick of the little boy in year 7 who puked in your NQT’s classroom. You shouldn’t be the only one doing it, but we’re definitely not above these tasks.
Laugh and when that’s hard, cry.
It’s fine to do both. Show your human side.