I recall pundits saying that there would be a seven- to ten-year period when independent schools would see the retirement of Baby Boomer heads of school. That was probably five years ago. Then the financial crisis hit and the putative retirements did not occur. There were two principal reasons: 1) Boomers' portfolios took the hit head-on, forcing would-be retirees to rebuild their portfolios; and 2) boards needed those experienced heads to remain in place in order to help weather the storm.
Now, however, we are experiencing what might be termed a velocity of retirements, meaning that the bubble of about-to-retire heads, which had expanded significantly since 2008, is popping. Heads are retiring at a remarkable rate--just look at The Blue Sheet (or several other sources) to see the sheer number of head searches announced for July 2013, with many of them having been announced this past spring. Oh, and get ready for yet another round, when any sitting heads (not of retirement age) make lateral moves to some of the big-name schools; that will produce another bubble (albeit somewhat smaller).
As Boomers transition to retirement now, I'm wondering a few things (aloud):
- By what percentage will the pool of HOS candidates shrink? Think about it: there will be remarkably fewer sitting heads to choose from, if you're heading a search committee.
- How will the demographic composition of sitting heads change? For consideration is what percentage of heads will be Gen Xers and/or Millenials.
- Have we (as schools, generally) been able to prepare the Xers and Millenials for headship? Mark Crotty's post yesterday (Aug. 1) on crisis leadership prompted me to return to this question, which I've been pondering for some time.
- Will the about-to-become Heads engage in leadership development immediately, in terms of identifying internal leaders and helping them grow? I offer what I've heard anecdotally: many independent school faculty look at school leadership and think, "That's not for me. I don't want to deal with the hassle." To some extent, such observations have been the case for decades, but it does beg the question, "Is heading a school today fundamentally different from heading a school 20 years ago?"
I hope that readers will comment on these questions, as this is an important time for independent schools. With all the uncertainties that exist today, leadership transition is something that demands our attention.