A few things have inspired this post including a post from @msHMFL and then this account of a headteacher basically ‘conning’ his/her staff.
What does being a humane leader mean in the context of a school?
Remember what a full timetable of teaching with duties, is like
Whilst the lives are leaders involve different responsibilities and possibly more varied scenarios, these are not more important than a teacher’s. They are equally challenging and can be equally stressful. A tough class for 1 hour can be as stressful as a tough meeting for 1 hour but neither is more important. A leader that remembers this will have empathy and in turn will display humanity to a team. Without this, a hierarchical attitude will divide leadership & teaching staff. Not a good recipe.
‘Life’ doesn’t always conveniently occur in holiday time
Whilst teachers have more than the average person’s ‘holiday’ or I prefer to say ‘time out of the school building’, key life events do not always conveniently fall in these times. People need time off. The tricky aspect of this for a leader is what should be allowed/not allowed.
What is the humane solution to a request for time off?
If it were you in the position, what would you hope a leader would say to you?
Whilst leaders need to balance the good of the school community with that of individual needs, the humane approach pays dividends in terms of loyalty and future relations.
“Do what I say, not as I do”
Sometimes people in power tell their staff to do/not to do something and then do it themselves. For example, tell staff not to park in the disabled space in the front of the school, and then park in it themselves. Staff like to see that if there are rules or protocols in place then it applies to all. If there are caveats only based on position of power, respect is lost and again, the sense of empathy and humanity are lost.
Protecting your staff
Someone said to me “You don’t ever want to see your Headteacher panicking/upset, in the same way you never want to see your parent/s panicking/upset” . Leaders in schools should in some sense be a ‘buffer’ for staff. There are many things that teachers do not need to concern themselves about. Not because they don’t deserve to know about them, but it is the job of leaders to manage situations, so you get the best out of them.
Apologies for those who you who don’t watch this but it reminds me of a situation from the current TV series of ‘The Call Centre’. In a misunderstanding, a member of staff randomly announces to the call centre that she won’t be working with them anymore. It causes emotional scenes of ‘saying goodbye’ with some divisions as to what she’s been asked to do. Both the manager and the boss, Nev, can see that this kind of ‘announcement’ is not good for the morale of the team. Nev then takes action to speak to the team to set the record straight and to try to dispel any kind of division or change in motivation. He clearly knew that there are some things that should be dealt with in a particular way in order to protect his staff and their well-being. It isn’t about hiding realities but managing them.
The benefits of humane leadership
I think the key benefit from humane leaderships is the trust that it develops. If people can see that you care and will understand anything that may affect them whilst at work. The concept of ‘multipliers’ comes in to play. If you trust staff to do their jobs and give them opportunities you will get “40%” more from them.
People will also start to form a team a feel a sense of belonging in the team. If you know you’re going to be treated humanely, you will be able to share the ups and downs of teaching and in turn become stronger in the collaborative support it brings.