Heads outperform captains of industry

8th December 2000 at 00:00
THEIR pay packets may be tiny by comparison, but headteachers are better leaders than their counterparts in industry, according to a new government commissioned study.

In fact half of the top managers at some of the most successful companies in the world would not be up to the job of leading a school, the study suggests.

Researchers compared the leadership styles of 200 heads and 200 senior managers and directors in multinational companies. They found that the heads were more versatile and used a wider range of skills. They also had a bigger impact on the performance of their staff.

Heads were more successful motivators because they had clear expectations and focused on raising capability. They took a long-term view of staff development that allowed mistakes.

Business leaders, on the other hand, were more likely to sacrifice long-term staff performance in pursuit of immediate goals.

The education and management consultancy Hay McBer reached these conclusions after inviting five staff members working with each of the 400 leaders to describe an rate their boss's leadership skills according to a set of common criteria.

However, Hay McBer also identified where school leaders could learn from their business peers.

Heads were too prone to an authoritarian style, issuing orders and expecting obedience.

Business leaders were better at painting an attractive vision of the future.

They also were more effective at holding people to account for their current performance and rewarding them accordingly.

Although heads recognised the effort staff put in they were less successful at rewarding this.

In many schools rewards were distributed to everyone, regardless of their contribution. Hay McBer argued that this reduced the incentive for teachers to work hard.

Many heads said that the constraints of the salary structure stopped them rewarding the most successful teachers.

Russell Hobby, project manager of Hay McBer's educational division, said: "This study contains a very positive message. In general, there is a great deal of strong, versatile leadership in our schools."

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