Leadership – Nature Vs Nurture or Nature Plus Nurture?

In a meeting this week we were exploring some of the essential criteria we might use for promoted posts such as Principal Teacher, Depute Head Teacher and Head Teacher.

For example –

Should anyone who wishes to become a Depute Head Teacher have been a Principal Teacher in more than one school?

Should a prospective Head Teacher have held promoted positions in more than one school?

Does someone have to have held a Depute Head Teacher’s post for a certain period of time before they can be considered for promotion to HT – e.g. three years?

The underlying assumption behind all of these possible criteria is that you cannot be regarded as being ready for promotion until you have “served your time” and “have experience of more than one school”. 

Some questions:

Does “serving time” in a promoted post really prepare people for the next step?

Does it mean that if I’ve done five years a Depute that I’m automatically ready for Headship?

What if the cut-off for consideration is three years and I’ve been in post 2 years and ten months – does two months make such a difference?

What if I’ve held a promoted post in a school where I’ve been given no autonomy by my Head Teacher – should that be the same as someone who has maybe taken on leadership responsibilities in another school but without being at the same promoted level?

All this takes me back to the title of this post Leadership – nature or nurture?

I do believe there are some innate traits which good leaders should have but that it’s not necessary to have the “full set”. – that’s where nurture comes in. Experience in a variety of posts does help – and can be considered essential in some cases – as long as the person is learning from these experiences.

We are relaunching our Exchange Programme next term where teachers/PTs/Deputes/ and HTs will be able to seek an exchange with a colleague in East Lothian in the coming session. Hopefully this will give some individuals who wish to broaden their experience the opportunity to do so within a nurturing environment.

(I’ll be exploring, in a separate post, what “experience” and why it might be a necessary criteria for job selection)

Link – nature versus nurture

7 thoughts on “Leadership – Nature Vs Nurture or Nature Plus Nurture?

  1. There’s another underlying assumption here: that the more “ready” a person is, in terms of the various experience-related criteria, the better they will perform in the job. A number of organisations have found that, in their context, this isn’t the way it works: for them, you can have too much of this particular good thing. Unless there’s a clear gap between a candidate’s existing experience and the challenges of a new role, a real “stretch”, they won’t consider appointment.

    The reason for their view is explained by the Yerkes-Dodson law. Some jobs require a degree of persistence and motivation that’s more likely to be found in someone aroused by the challenge of a role that takes them significantly beyond their previous experience.

  2. David

    As ever you bring another perspective – and useful one at that! This is a new one on me but it has a certain appeal.

    However, if research is to be beleived, many people are being put off applying for Head Teacher posts just for that very reason, i.e. the stretch is too far.

  3. Not an entirely original thought, but I suspect that much depends on whether you have five years’ experience or one year’s experience five times.

  4. Experience brings many things, but ‘time-served’ cannot surely be an efficient or forward thinking way to run an organisation? I think Neil’s point is an important one. I think the major challenge for schools is ensuring the interview process gives people an opportunity to display their qualities, skills and thinking in a ‘real’ and meaningful way. I was interested to hear of an interview process for depute in an independent school that took a whole day, ranging from a ‘formal’ interview, to an aptitude test, teaching a lesson as well as having lunch. Is the investment in choosing the ‘right’ someone at senior management level worth that sort of scrutiny, time and effort? It’s food for thought anyway.

  5. What I would be interested to hear is how much emphasis is placed on the interview over the application form. I have heard (anecdotally) of several appointments being made on the basis of a particularly good interview despite other candidates having (on paper) a better case for the promotion. I do have a vested interest in this question as I’ve just applied for a PTs post so would be interested in any practical advice you could offer!

  6. The application form is used to establish if people meet the essential criteria for the job. Thereafter, it all comes down to how you perform at interview.

    I’ll post something about interview technique on a separate post.

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