Why our Schools Don't Need "Super Heads"

The media occasionally present some School Leaders as “Super Heads”, leaders who can turn around a school at lightning speed, without experiencing the fragilities of human nature.
In their presentation, “Super Heads” can sustain their performance and motivation, amidst criticism, job insecurity – without feeling anything in the process.
The truth is no such Headteacher ever existed!
What does exist, are normal human beings who have to survive in a system that too often sees a passion for high standards as being mutually exclusive and separate from compassion and humility.
What does exist are Headteachers and School Leaders who throughout the course of the school year, have almost certainly experienced sorrow; frustration, anger, self-doubt, worry and a whole host other emotions.
And even if such “Super Heads” did exist, our schools and our children do not need them. What our education system needs is School Leaders with super hearts: individuals who have learnt to embrace the struggle of School Leadership, whilst leading with humanity.
We need Leaders who don’t deny their vulnerability, who aren’t ashamed to admit they have fears, doubts and uncertainties but rather accept and own their humanity and model this in their schools.
We need leaders who recognise in the words of Nelson Mandela that “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it” and so show pupils and staff that it is OK to have these doubts, fears and uncertainties, but also instil the belief that within all of us there is also the capacity to overcome this.
We need Headteachers and School Leaders who are wise enough to recognise their own limits and know that they will need support, operationally, strategically and emotionally as they lead their schools.
Above all, we need leaders who know that they, their staff and their pupils are in process of growth and development and that any worthwhile transformation does not happen overnight.
After all, a teacher does not become a successful, confident School Leader overnight. It is a journey. It is a process, one that is very often uncomfortable and sometimes downright ugly on the inside.
Scientists tell us that if we were to open a chrysalis during a critical stage of the caterpillar’s transformation, we would be shocked by what we would see.
We would not see an embryonic butterfly or something that even resembled any type of insect life form: what we would find would be a liquidised, mixed up, vulnerable, unrecognisable mess. We would see caterpillar soup!
To the outside world, the cocoon gives the impression of wholeness, hiding the truth of what is actually occurring on the inside. And we have all done it! Kept up appearances, when on the inside everything was a complete and utter mixed-up mess! Fortunately for us, nature does not look upon caterpillar soup as a culinary mistake and dismiss it as a recipe for failure.
Nature knows that what the soup needs is patience and time. Without patience and time, neither we nor our children would ever know the beauty of butterflies.
If you are a School Leader, the one thing that you never seem to have enough of is time. Everything is urgent and everything needs to have been done yesterday. But if you are to both survive and thrive in your role, then time is a gift that you need to learn to be able to give to yourself.
Just as nature affords time to the change process, our School Leaders need to realise that they must invest personal time into themselves as they learn to manage both the personal and external processes of school transformation.
Time which will enable them to:
–  Stop, pause and reflect
– Refill their emotional, mental and spiritual reservoirs
– Embrace and develop new mechanisms for coping with the challenges of School Leadership
– Strengthen their inner foundations
– Re-align themselves with all things, both personal and professional, that are of the greatest importance to them.


Without a doubt the pandemic brought many unexpected challenges for us all. However, one of the silver linings of the past two years has been a heightened awareness of what matters most for all of us. We learnt:

– The value of community

– The need to stay connected

– The importance of being supported

We also learnt that deeper connections matter, none of us can survive alone and to thrive and overcome the challenges of leadership life we need real, deep, and meaningful connections with others.

That’s why we have launched our new “Heads Together”, a new School Leadership community, designed to connect like-minded school-leaders and to provide a watering hole for inspiration, encouragement and support.

Our “Heads Together” Community is designed to provide School Leaders with:

– A vital network of support to help individuals manage the emotional strains and stresses of the role

– Collaborative forums for thoughtful exploration around timely and important leadership themes

– Inspiration and encouragement throughout the year to help keep leaders’ passion and purpose alive

If you’d like to find out more about the community, and how it could help support you in your role, simply follow the link below…

Learn more


One Response

  1. I like this post which critiques the idea of “superheads”. “Surgeon” leaders can make improvements in a short period of time (cutting out is the most straightforward part!) but it is rarely sustained – they don’t always have the other skills of building and collaboration. “Architect” leaders take longer for improvements to be visible but build strong foundations so growth is then sustained on an ongoing basis.

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