Sir Tim Brighouse, education royalty and former schools commissioner for London, has a little test for any school leaders reading: add up the minutes you spend outside your office and meeting rooms in one day, and count the number of people you encounter other than your immediate staff.
Writing in the 30 January issue of TES, Brighouse says that for many, the sad revelation will be that they have become a remote leader – a shadowy presence on the fringes of school life rather than its most recognisable representative. And that often means trouble.
“When the paperwork and meetings begin to dominate your time, being at the school gate at the start and end of the school day can be one of the first routines to disappear,” he writes. “But this simple habit shows parents and staff that your open-door policy is more than just talk and that they really can ‘grab you for a word’. It also gives the day a better chance of beginning and ending on a positive note – for everyone in the school community – because you are there as an overseeing presence.”
He explains that daily walks are often the next thing to go.
“If you lose this, no longer can you ensure that you see and speak to every member of staff regularly. One headteacher I knew confessed to being greeted by a teacher who asked: ‘Is there something wrong? You haven’t spoken to me this term.’"
Once these elements have gone from your diary, it becomes all too easy to sit behind a computer and trawl through spreadsheets rather than talking to the students and teachers behind all that data. This gradual withdrawal from view is highly damaging, according to Brighouse.
“To be a successful leader you must take measures to ensure you are visible,” he says.
If this sounds like you, he advises urgent action.
“Audit your time regularly and take action when you find you are keeping yourself hidden away for too long,” he says. “Put in the hard work, whatever level of leadership you’re at. Being visible is not optional; it’s central to success.”
Read the full article in 30 January edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents.