The term ‘hidden curriculum’ is often used in education, to describe the additional, indirect, often unintended, learning that takes place in schools. For those of us in leadership positions in schools, there is also the aspect of hidden leadership. To me hidden leadership relates to all those things that some of our colleagues do not see us doing.
In a leadership position, criticism comes with the job. Everyone is entitled to their opinion as to what is working well in your school or department and what needs to be improved. As leaders we have to develop a very thick skin or a ‘ducks back’ to be able to deal with this criticism and not take it personally; easier said than done.
Then, there are those critics who will make statements about what is not being done or who is not doing their job with their criticisms based upon no evidence whatsoever. Unfortunately, this can come about from them not being able to see what you actually do in your role.
Sometimes job shadowing is a great way to give people an insight into what you do and is often great professional development for those that aspire to take on a similar leadership role. Furthermore, mentoring aspiring leaders is also a worthy project to set up in a school whereby you can share your day to day work and what it takes to get get it done, oftentimes with a smile on you face in spite of some very difficult circumstances.
Despite providing these aforementioned opportunities, some of our colleagues are not interested in learning about our position and they will call it how they see it. This can feel unfair, as our critics cannot see everything that we do as leaders. They are not there to see the difficult conversations, they will perhaps only get some of the information regarding a decision that had to be made or they have a group of friends/colleagues who wish to affirm each others viewpoints, so much so that they lose all sight of remaining objective about the work of leaders in schools. So, what can we do about this?
As leaders, it is important to face the critics. Invite them in to discuss their concerns, provide answers to their questions and provide the necessary transparency needed to put somewhat of an end to the negative influence that they are having. From my experience, when a critic is kindly asked to account for their grievances they quite often wish to avoid the situation. It is important, therefore, to provide forums that are as tension free as possible if the conversations are to be productive; there are reasons why critics feel safer in groups.
Going it alone, though, can be time-consuming and emotionally draining. Building a team of leaders in our schools that can work together to accept criticism when it is warranted and to challenge it when it is not, is better still. As a leader it is great when a colleague can correct a critic when baseless fault-finding is in process and they are able to support you in creating to positive school culture for our staff and most importantly our students.
In the meantime, consider the hidden aspects of your role and what you can do to share these hidden aspects with others in a way that you are not seeking pity but support for the work that you are doing that others simply do not know about.