The Head of School Conundrum: A 21st Century Leadership Challenge

From Section:
Education & Administration
Jul. 02, 2015
July 2, 2015

Source: eJewish Philanthropy 


At the end of the day, Heads of Schools will always be required to navigate crises, exigencies, problems and pressures of the 21st century Jewish day school. They will be judged not necessarily by the number of fires extinguished, speeches or pronouncements made or crises averted, but rather by the manner in which they were able to direct, channel and lead their schools to ensure high levels of educational standards of excellence and above all, measurable student achievement, progress and success.

In the final analysis, leading and managing schools effectively should not be mutually exclusive.

Several ways in which the Head of School can merge and blend leadership and management skills include, but are not be limited to the following repertoire of beliefs, practices and behaviors:

  • Ensuring that all policy, educational and administrative decision-making processes are data driven, and not based on political expediency, just an item on a check-list, or for personal gain;

  • Offering ongoing constructive, reflective, sensitive and often-times difficult feedback to administrative staff and faculty anchored in best practice;

  • Providing administrative staff and faculty with well-defined opportunities for professional growth, development and reflection;

  • Making faculty meetings learning opportunities (remember, all administrative stuff can go into emails; no need to eat-up precious staff/faculty time to review lunch orders, PE or carpool schedules);

  • Ensuring that the school’s curriculum is always aligned with the school’s core values, mission and vision (assuming they are well articulated);

  • Ensuring that all faculty, staff and board agendas are “action focused” – otherwise, why meet; reports can be committed to paper and read – why waste precious time?

  • Make conversations with faculty and staff more about them and the school – not about the challenges facing the Head of School;

  • Find time to engage in personal and professional reflection;

  • If feasible, engage a coach in order to help counsel and guide you;

  • Be concerned about the quality of your time on task – is your time being well spent, directed or utilized effectively? It’s not about time-on-task, but the quality of time-on- task;

  • Exhibit and demonstrate Jewish role-modeling;

  • Always be transparent;

  • Don’t use too many clichés or overly-quote management/leadership gurus, buzz words or catch-phrases – they get stale really fast;

  • Always begin meetings with a Jewish value or inspiring words of Torah in order to set the stage for a meaningful dialogue and conversation;

  • Hire and engage administrative staff who you can delegate to; otherwise, why are they at your school?

  • Do not expect reciprocal trust on the part of your faculty and staff until you have exhibited trustworthiness on a consistent basis.

Read the entire article at eJewish Philanthropy.

Updated: Feb. 07, 2017
Administration | Day schools | Head of School | Leadership | Management