By Hugh A Mallon III, President/CEO, Executive Compensation Concepts, Stevensville, MD
In finalizing the head’s total compensation package, boards would be advised to review market data, the head’s experience and acquired skill competencies, as well as the head’s performance to the expectations of the board. Within independent schools, there is a career path for a head of school and an emerging trend to categorize these key leaders into four categories.
1. New Head of School. Frequently referred to as a “rising star,” this head is acquiring the skill competencies required for the position. While there are overnight successes, they are few and far between. “COO” - 0 to 5 years of experience. Inexperienced heads must “earn their stripes” by way of a measurable and fully documented process.
2. Experienced Head of School. This head has successfully completed his or her trial period, is moving to the next chapter of headship, and possesses the ability to lead the school forward. This head has moved out of a COO mindset and is showing signs of moving to a CEO - 6 years to 10 years of experience as a head of school.
3. Performing Head of School. These heads have proven their ability to lead the school strategically, operationally, and financially over their career as head. These are CEOs on all fronts; however they still have a ways to go before becoming a top-performing head of school - 11 to 15 years of experience as a head of school, possibly at multiple schools.
4. Top Performing Head. With 16+ years of practical experience, these heads are at the apex of their career:
• Strategic and Visionary. High achiever in all areas of the school, visionary in charting the course of the school, and tactical, yet progressive, leader of change that empowers the school and its people operationally, functionally, and financially; always pursuing a better approach/model
• Functional. Successful team builder in assembling and nurturing the bench strength within the school, especially a strong second line infrastructure to whom they delegate the authority and responsibility to lead within their respective departments
• Operational. Creates efficiency throughout the school, sees change as a consistent, ongoing process, not an event, and knows change must both occur and be controlled. Leads rather than manages (COO vs. CEO), does what others are not willing to do, and fosters a climate/culture of innovation, creativity, and change
• Financial. Understands and manages well the financial affairs of the school, institutionalizes the future financial health and viability of the school, and possesses a strong commitment to ongoing fundraising
• Succession Planning. Willingly accepts that succession planning and sustainability planning are intrinsically connected to the school’s future.
Heads should be fairly and reasonably paid based upon three criteria, not totally dependent upon chasing the market alone (i.e., we want to be in the 90th percentile):
1. Performance to mutually agreed upon measurable standards
2. Relevancy of skill competencies that the head acquired
3. Market data scans available.