Identifying and Developing Future Principals and Senior Leaders

Posted by on 30 January 2018

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Anyone who has been involved in education over the last twenty years or so will tell you that the number of applicants for principal positions has been steadily declining.  It is the same for both state and integrated schools only it is more difficult for Catholic schools as the principal must be a Catholic.

Sometimes a person is appointed to a principal role and the board finds that the person is not suitable.  The damage is great, loss of confidence for the person concerned, upset staff, parents and students.  How then to make sure that the person being appointed has the ability to lead a complex organisation such as a school?

To answer this question Ahead Associates discussed with Brian Dive, a New Zealander who resides in the UK, the application of a model he had developed based on Decision Making Accountability (DMA).

Brian’s work is centred on issues relating to organisational design, effectiveness and the human resource practices needed to build a well functioning organization with an outstanding leader. 

The Decision Making Accountability model is based on extensive research and fieldwork and has been adopted world-wide by Unilever and other major companies as well as not for profit organisations. The model and its adoption by various organisation is set out in Brian’s book (s now in its second edition) “The Healthy Organization: a revolutionary Approach to People and Management “

Ahead Associates invited Brian to use the DMA principles to establish the leadership competencies required by a successful principal.  Research was carried out at both the primary and secondary level.  The resulting competences provided the framework for the programme.

The programme consists of five strands, participant interviews and profiling, a 360° questionnaire designed around the required competencies and finally a one day development workshop. The workshop activities and exercises provide valuable information to the observers and participants about the desired competencies. A summary of the findings are presented in a personal report.

Individual feedback is provided to each participant followed by feedback to their principal as they are usually asked to provide development opportunities for their nominated staff member.

Mentoring and advice is offered where appropriate. It has become clear that there needs to be a process of identifying staff with leadership potential early in their careers so that suitable training and support can be provided on the career path.

The programme has been offered for a number of years.  We are aware that there are other initiatives in the country and comment here that we are most grateful for the support given by the Board and CEO of the New Zealand Catholic Education Office.


The Healthy Organization: A Revolutionary Approach to People & Management by Brian Dive, Kogan Page 2002, 2004 2nd edition

The Accountable Leader: Developing Effective Leadership Through Managerial Accountability by Brian Dive, Kogan Page 2008