A friend of mine, about to take up a new post, asked if I knew of any good books on how to be a good deputy head. Well, a search on Amazon brings up this little list. Although I cannot vouch for how good they are, I’m sure they are written with the best intentions.
I don’t think that there is any book on how to be a good deputy that would really make a huge difference to how you discharge your duties. Rather, I would suggest reading around the idea of leadership: autobiographies, biographies, case studies. Fallon’s “Six Secrets of Change”, Adair’s “Effective Strategic Leadership” and Lansing’s “Endurance, Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage to the Antarctic” are three books, of thousands, I would suggest to gain inspiration on how leadership works in general. In this way you can develop a sense of what you believe leadership to be and how you wish to use your own innate qualities to develop as a leader.
Beyond developing this sense of personal leadership style, I offer the following as a list of what being a good deputy might entail:
- Don’t choose sides. You owe allegiance to your Head and the senior management team but you need to be sensitive to the mood and needs of the common room.
- Be the eyes and ears. Given the point above, your role is to support the staff team but also, more importantly, to support your Head in developing their vision for the school. As long as your Head values your contributions, you will have the opportunity to discuss the direction of the school. So when you do, speak up.
- Remember who’s the boss. Do your job. Your Head needs your support to run the day-to-day operation of the school. Speak openly with them about your aspirations and interests, set professional targets for your leadership goals but stick to your core purpose.
As with leadership at any level, there is no single or “right” way. However, there are some key tenets that are immutable and I believe the three above, are a good jump off point for discussion on what might be needed to make a good deputy.