A department head looks after the department, decides department policy, manages the team, interacts with other department heads and receives the accolades as well as the brickbats for the team. Much like a captain of a cricket team, a department head organises the team that works under him or her and helps achieve the teams’ goals.
A department head should be able to act as a professional manager. This means getting people of diverse backgrounds and skills to fulfill their individual and department objectives. A department head needs to create a spirit of teamwork .
So a department head has to successfully manage a team. Several experts have studied the functions of department heads. According to management expert Henry Mintzberg, a department head’s function consists of three interpersonal roles (figurehead, leader, and liaison), three informational roles (monitor or nerve centre, disseminator, and spokesman), and four decision-making roles (entrepreneur, disturbance handler, resource allocator, and negotiator).
What qualities do companies look for when appointing department heads? Experts say there are four main abilities that a person should possess – the ability to communicate effectively, the ability to manage traditionally, the ability to manage human resources and the ability to network.
1 Communication basically means exchanging routine information and processing paperwork. Effective communication refers to the ability to connect with your people at various levels.
2 Traditional management refers to planning, decision- making, and controlling. Managers need to set goals and objectives, define tasks needed to accomplish goals, assign tasks and monitor performance data.
3 Human resource management refers to motivating/reinforcing, managing conflict, staffing, and training/developing. Managers should allocate formal rewards, ask for input, convey appreciation, give credit where due, listen to suggestions, offer positive feedback, provide group support, resolve conflict between subordinates, and arrange for training.
4 Networking refers to socialising/politicking and interacting with outsiders. This can involve non-work-related conversations, dealing with customers and vendors. Department heads need to develop healthy relationships with the people in their departments. Mutual respect and trust are the two main ingredients for developing such relationships.
It is because the department head plays such an important role in running the department that the selection process for the department head should be clear, transparent and based on specific norms. The first and foremost attribute that department heads need is competence, meaning through knowledge of their areas of expertise.
Professional heads are sure of what they do and let their actions speak for themselves. Hence the image of people who head departments depends on the work they do, not on what they say they can do.