Five ways to spot a dysfunctional SLT

A misfiring SLT can be incredibly harmful to all involved in school life. Phil Denton, assistant headteacher at St Edmund Arrowsmith RC High School in Wigan, and ambassador for Future Leaders, lists the five things an SLT needs to watch out for and effective ways to avoid them.

Phil Denton

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1. Lack of trust

Without trust, the long-term development of teams and an effective culture is impossible. Engendering trust is not just a question of “being nice”, but of speaking from a place of mutual respect and the understanding that everyone is on the same team, working towards the same goal. As a leader, it's vital that this is held up as a virtue and practised in public, as well as private, discussion.

2. Lack of attention to results

Dysfunctional teams include (and are often led by) individuals who are more concerned with their own results, status and ego than the collective success of the team. Without a national shift in the judgement of schools, this short-term approach can only be tackled by schools becoming advocates and defining agents of the communities they serve. In this way, leaders are forced to aim for a broader impact than their own CV.

3. Fear of conflict

During SLT meetings, individuals within defective teams frequently become passengers and offer little help in the refinement of new ideas. To avoid this, challenge and discussion should be celebrated and the team should understand that without each other and their feedback to each other, their great efforts will not be as productive.

4. Lack of commitment

If senior leaders don’t insist that colleagues can voice concerns, share support and arrange planning in an open forum, this can lead to a lack of buy-in. Leaders mustn’t accept non-committal meetings where some team members allow other colleagues to accept all the risks in terms of strategic decisions.

This means ensuring that all team members have taken the opportunity to state their opinion and, in doing so, freely given up their safety clause of “it wasn’t my idea”.

5. Avoidance of accountability

As soon as avoidance of accountability is accepted by leadership, it spreads like wildfire throughout any organisation. Once decisions have been made and the direction taken, leaders must take on the accountability of the collective. This responsibility should be a key consideration when recruiting and adding new members to the SLT.

You can read the full article in the 8 January edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full version here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. Or pick up the magazine in all good newsagents. 

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Phil Denton

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