Leadership Dilemma 2

Following on from the first Leadership Dilemma here’s the second on the series.

You are a newly appointed Headteacher/Principal (two months). The Depute Headteacher/Vice Principal applied for the post and was unsuccessful. You have gone out of your way to accommodate the Depute’s opinion and to be sensitive to her/his feelings.

You have been told by someone you trust that she/he is making derogatory comments behind your back about your opinions on most issues relating to the school.

Do you confront your Depute or not?

7 thoughts on “Leadership Dilemma 2

  1. Absoloutly! Although it must be done in a sensitive mannor, not with anger and agression. If this deputy is making comments not only is this going to be your own reputation at stake but also the school’s. Perhaps the discussion should take the form of a relaxed chat and start by just asking how things are going in general but there must be some discussion.

  2. My instinct is to agree with you Sharon, but then I thought, (just to be Devil’s Advocate,) what would you gain by not speaking to the Depute? Staff who heard her comments would know it was sour grapes anyway and would not be impressed that she was denying you a fair chance. If you gave her time to get over it without letting on you knew, she would have a chance to save face and build a proper relationship with you. As HT you would be in the stronger position and ultimately your Depute is the one with the bigger problem if there is a rift between you. Aren’t schools claustrophic though!

  3. It is a difficult one.

    With this hypothetical situation, as my Father would say:

    ‘politics, not personality’

    I would initially ignore it and get on with focusing on leading my team;unless it started to develop into a serious false accusation.

  4. Beware about listening to a so-called trusted friend. They may have something to gain from driving a wedge between the Head and the depute. I’d focus on promoting open discussion at meetings and encouraging people to speak up if they disagree with the Head – maybe the Head isn’t open to debate and this is the only way the depute can air their feelings. Do we have to assume that the Head has got it right?

  5. I’m with Bryan on this. One of the many first rules of leadership is “trust no-one” (Frazer’s Golden Bough is based upon this from pre-Roman times). Fortunately, we tend not to slit the throats of our leaders but it’s awfy easy to un-nerve and rattle a new leader with a few well-placed and well-chosen words. Truth is irrelevant here.

    Your own example shows the way, though. Enabling open dialogue not only promotes it, but utterly disenfranchises the whispering dissent of those who would tear down the edifice by cowardly means.

  6. I wouldn’t ignore it, but I’d refuse to become paranoid. I think all staff will be observing a new “heedie” closely, so setting a tone and a moral purpose is essential.

    A new HT has an opportunity to invite open discussion on strengths and weaknesses of the school, and so honest debate should be encouraged. Most if not all staff want to feel valued and empowered. It would then be interesting to see how the spurned Depute handled that – and the level of support he enjoyed.

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