What makes a good Head of Department?
What makes a good HOD (Head of Department)? This is a question I had to ask myself multiple times when I was appointed the role of Head of Maths. Having just completed my first half-term in this new role, I still don’t have a definitive answer. However I am slowly starting to understand. My idea of a good HOD is someone who leads by example, has a clear vision, is not afraid to make mistakes and most importantly is able to empower and inspire the people around them.
Here are some strategies I have adopted in my short time being a HOD:
1. Encourage creativity
An effective HOD should present those around them with stimulating challenges with the correct support to achieve their goals. This will allow team members to express their creativity.
2. Be a role model If you want to be a better HOD it is important to work on modelling the characteristics that you would like to see in your team members. As a leader, every move you make will be monitored closely by the people around you. Being able to talk the talk and walk the walk to back it up can be admiring causing team members to emulate.
3. Show passion A passionate HOD shows enthusiasm in what they do and what the team does. Let your team know that you care about their professional development. If you have seen an excellent lesson observation or a fantastic resource being used, be sure to show your appreciation.
No matter your experience, there is always an opportunity to improve and grow as a leader
4. Offer rewards and show recognition Similar to the 3rd point on showing passion, offering effective recognition and rewards is one of the best ways to help your team feel appreciated and happy. The happier and more motivated the team is, the more likely they are going to perform better. Give shoutouts in department meetings, allow staff to share excellent practice/resources.
5. Have a positive attitude As a HOD, your attitude can transfer onto the rest of the team. If as a leader you are upbeat and optimistic this can inspire your team to also have that same mentality. Even when times get rough, and your team are feeling disheartened try and remain positive by maintaining a sense of hope in the face of adversity.
6. Communicate effectively Communication is key! An important quality required of a good HOD involves a focus on providing effective one-to-one communication with team members. As a leader you will be busy a lot of the time with various admin tasks, however allocating time for your team to speak to you will ensure your team feel valued. Good leaders should express sincere care and concern for the members of their team both verbally and non-verbally.
No matter your experience, there is always an opportunity to improve and grow as a leader. If you can be a source of motivation and inspiration within your department then they will be more willing to work harder for you. I am not saying you will get everything right and I know there are many more strategies I have not listed but being open to learn and self-reflect will help you go a long way. As teachers we have all had our experiences with HODs and their various leadership styles, so be the type of leader you would be happy to work with.