Now, I don't know any school leaders that are mini-Donald Trumps, but I have worked with, and observed a number who come pretty close in their own way. These are the ones who put personal power and position status over team building and school improvement. They are the sun kings of their buildings: "L'Ecole c'est moi!' They are the posers, people who, like the current President, have a bit of a churning in the pit of their stomach because they know that they are in over their heads. However, rather than admit it and focus on learning and growing, they double down on their ignorance through grand proclamations or denouncements of their predecessors. The systematically marginalize their strongest administrators and surround themselves with weak surrogates. They create that atmosphere within which no-one dares speak truth to power; people keep their heads down so as not to get noticed; and the best and the brightest quietly leave to find opportunities elsewhere.
With the faculty and staff cowed and fearing for their jobs, the main safeguards against the growth of this kind of cult of personality within a school, are the Board and parent body. So how do you identify the "Donald Trump lite" mini-me's that infect some our schools? Well, the master in the White House gives you the tools. Five simple questions will help parents and Board members assess your own culture of fear:
1. Is the school leader more busy tearing down than building up?
2. Are you seeing abnormal turnover of administration and senior staff?
3. Is there a "selfie" culture around the Head where you hear a lot about "my team"; "my vision", "my decision" - or the Trumpian conceit of talking himself in the third person as in "tell them that this is what Trump wants" ?
4. Is there a re-writing of history? Does the school leader act as if until she arrived things were going to hell in a hand-basket - that she is here "To make [your school name here] great again!"?
5. Is there the faint smell of panic constantly in the air? Where activity and the pace of change are almost manic - where the atmosphere has changed so much and so quickly that it is hard to remember how calm and productive things used to be?
These are the warning signs - we all see them in the White House - hopefully you don't see them in your own school.