In any organization, it is important to have a leader who is present. This is especially true in schools, where staff and students need positive role models who are engaged in their learning. Unfortunately, many schools have absent leaders. These are people who are in leadership positions (be it the principal or senior leaders and even middle leaders), but are not actually engaged with their staff or students. They may be compliant, but they fail to make any real impact on the organization and ultimately impacts school culture. In this blog post, we will discuss the issue of absent leaders and offer a few strategies for dealing with them.
In a growing era where few people are putting up their hand to take on senior leadership roles in schools, organisations are appointing inexperienced and lacking in quality. It is these leaders often become are absentee leaders. They are the people who have been promoted into leadership roles, but who are not actually engaged in the work that needs to be done. They may enjoy the privileges and rewards of being a leader, but they fail to make any impact on improving teacher learning. In fact, they often avoid meaningful involvement with their staff altogether. They are the compliant, status quo leader.
One of the main problems with absent leaders is that they are often promoted into leadership roles without any real qualifications or experience. They may be good at following orders, but they lack the skills necessary to lead and inspire others. As a result, these leaders simply coast along and fail to make any meaningful impact on the organization. In addition, absent leaders can actually have a negative impact on staff morale and student learning.
How can you tell if your school has an absent leader? One sign is that there is a lot of conflict among staff members. Absent leaders are often disengaged from their staff, which can lead to tension and disagreements. They lack a physical presence in the school and struggle to exude a sense of authority. This leads to another sign (or symptom of) in that there is little or no innovation happening in the school. Absent leaders are not interested in taking risks or trying new things, so the school stagnates under their leadership.
So what can you as a classroom teacher do about it? There are a few strategies that you can try. Don’t wait for someone else to step up and lead; sometimes teachers have to take matters into their own hands.
#1: Offer support and resources to help the leader be more present.
If you suspect that your school has an absent leader, the best thing to do is offer support and resources to help them become more engaged. Often, these leaders simply need some guidance and assistance in order to become more effective. You can provide this support by offering to take on and lead some strategic initiatives to make the schools’ leader’s job easier and more successful.
#2: Create a collaborative team atmosphere.
One of the best ways to deal with an absent leader is to create a collaborative team atmosphere where everyone is working together towards common goals. Working in teams and inviting the leader to be part of the conversation will keep the leader up to date with what is happening in the classrooms and across the school. This will also help to build a sense of community among staff.
#3: Increase your own productivity.
If the leader is not engaged, it is up to the rest of the staff to pick up the slack. This can be done by increasing productivity and working harder towards common goals. Staff should also document their work so that there is evidence of their accomplishments even in the absence of a leader.
#4: Hold the leader accountable.
Absent leaders need to be held accountable for their actions, or lack thereof. This can be done by having regular meetings with them to discuss your goals and progress, as well as setting measurable objectives that you are required to meet. In doing so you are inviting your leader to help contribute to your development.
#5: Speak up.
If you have any concerns about the leadership in your school, it is important to speak up. This can be done by meeting with the leader directly, or by communicating with other staff members who may also be concerned. It’s important to remember that you are not alone in this and that there are others who share your concerns.
#6: Vote with your feet.
If you have tried all of the above and nothing seems to be working, then it may be time to vote with your feet and leave the organization. This is a drastic measure, but if you feel that you are not being heard or that the leadership is not improving, it may be the only option left for you.
While many schools have absent leaders, it can be a serious problem for schools. Fortunately, there are things that we can do to help them become more engaged. By offering support and resources, creating a collaborative team atmosphere, increasing productivity, holding the leader accountable, and speaking up if we have concerns, we can make our school a better place for everyone. Let’s work together to make sure that every child has an excellent education!