Leadership V Management, which will be the SAfE choice?

PDF Download

The title paragraph above came from my article on Leadership in 2018’s SGA Autumn Bulletin explaining some of the problems in developing leadership in a system stymied by management that thinks it is leadership. In fact, the major problem of the decade has become that leadership, in all its forms has been choked off across much of our nation by management that somehow believes it has leadership qualities, which it clearly does not.

The role of Management v Leadership has exercised the thinking of major business corporations, management consultants as well as institutions like the LSE (London School of Economics) and Harvard, for decades and while much has been written and digested on the subject it still is a challenge to growth, change programmes, stable national economies, phoenix operations and entrepreneurship.

Fortunately, education has a big advantage over the business world, who have to seek costly and time consuming consultancy, then engage focus groups to assist in change. Governing Boards provide education with a network of worldly-wise, multi-experienced, fully community aware and in tune with the task Governors and Trustees who should have the expertise that can steer those who are tightly locked into the narrow focus of education through such change, smoothly and efficiently.

This is provided that they have not had their Governing Boards packed by educationalists replacing parents etc. as in the recent AET academy shuffle so now they have no diversity of talents. (A scandalous case featured in the Times newspapers 30/09/2019.) Integrating ideas like SAfE also requires that Governing Boards are regularly briefed, fully consulted with and listened to, at every stage of the process.

Operational guidance of the two management styles in different challenging situations is, of course, the real secret to implementing any substantive value change anywhere and not understanding or valuing the qualities is why over 80% of all change programmes fail. If you analyse the different sets of characteristics distinguishing Managers and Leaders, you begin to see what strategies you can employ to ensure you Accommodate the differences, Balance the process and Create a success.

First of all, in general terms, if you ask a group what are the differences we have to accommodate, you will be surprised at the results you get. In general terms when asked the question - define what managers and what leaders usually do? the profile lists that most people draw up goes something like this:

Most likely: - apply – control – maintain – tell- organise - process – relish stability – systemise – underpin - work on continuity.

Communicate by: – email – speeches - through others.

Decide: - based on conventional wisdom - the rule book - what’s available.

Often: – demand, expect - fail to recognise others expertise - isolate their expertise to themselves - recognise authority by title or pay - resist change other than their own ideas - often dictate rules - tell you how to do it - issue orders - hide failures - undermine others for personal gain – are always unavailable through meetings etc - meet targets.

Sometimes: – debate (with their peers) – implement – improve - resolve.

Rarely – employ anyone more talented than themselves other than by accident or as a consultant - accept anyone else’s advice or help in case it shows up their weaknesses that are often all too readily apparent to everyone - recognise leadership talents often thinking they are extrovert, non-conformist, irritants.

Most likely:- Consult – discuss – debate – empathise - recognise talent and actions - continually questions - seek to change - employ the best they can find - are happy for every member of the team to be more talented than they are - will delegate the leadership of a task to the most appropriate team member - will seek the advice of the expertise around them - use help and advice appropriately - share their knowledge and talents - work towards a new goal - shift to new challenges.

Communicate - directly and visibly – listen – evaluate – share - rationalise and explain.

Decide - by discussion and a rationalised process - on the basis of what is most likely to succeed - what may be gained - by debate – to act and test. Often – join in – demonstrate how to - share their vison and their knowledge - respect everyone - don’t distinguish by status or pay - reward by results and achievement - welcome change - innovation - experiment - applaud emotional intelligence - don’t condemn failure - often welcome the experience and learn from it – beat targets.

Sometimes – retract, bend the rules, knock it down to start again

Rarely - conform to conventional thinking - rely on the rule book to make a point - are far away from the centre of activity - unavailable within the hour.

These profiles are added to the leadership or management conundrum highlighted by the Autumn 2018 article I have now updated due to the recent introduction of the Schools Alliance for Excellence - SAfE.

A Schools-Led System, in which SAfE is an integral part could mean significant leaps forward and a far better education for all children, if we get it right. However, if it is going to work and to last, it is going to require positive drive, empathy and emotional intelligence, which are so feared by management, but are the essential tools of good leadership. As changing embedded traits in either leaders or managers is the most difficult and lengthy process it may, for a quick illustration, be useful to bring back the famous management desk toy of the 70’s Newtons Cradle, to remind them that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Why is Leadership needed for change to work? Simply because management only moves positively from its comfort zone when it sees a benefit for itself; leadership tends to change things when it sees a benefit to the entire community, is not afraid of the pain and discomfort of failures; making decisions being the imperative, while sharing experience, welcoming all inputs valuing then evaluating criticisms so swiftly rectifying mistakes and moving on.

Good leadership accepts full responsibility for the team and can even joyfully make itself redundant for the greater good of the community. It could be that much of what has been established so far has been developed by managers with leadership aspirations, or, who believe they have leadership qualities. This is unhelpful, for good, even excellent, managers rarely make good leaders while leaders recognise and seek out the assistance of good managers, to maintain the process and day to day operations. A difficulty is good managers rarely, if ever, recognise leaders’ qualities or understand why they succeed and so reward the loudest and most self- centred of their own, which then leads nowhere in the team and to disaster outside it.

Consequently a Schools-Led System and SAfE needs good Governance to stand a chance of success, to challenge the status quo and so exploit the many opportunities created by the changing environment. Governors and Trustees need to ensure that the reforms are used to create real meaningful cost-effective benefits; being determined to see that the focus of initiatives like SAfE is on sharing, caring, collaboration and cooperation working for the prime interest of inclusivity and of ensuring the best value highest standard education for all children and every child. Not just saying it but actually doing it.

Active Governors and Trustees will rigorously and wisely challenge the actions, the reasons and the intent of those who are driving the process. For example, they should monitor the cost and the values of the changes and ensure that everyone is held to account. This is essential, as there are few leaders and many managers in education. Even fewer who can create strategies for life.

We need the strong, challenging, rigorous, accountable governance that does its duty impartially, properly and fairly, right at the heart of every move. This is the only real chance of successful implementation of such a tempting and potentially reforming programme as SAfE, in the School-Led System, proposes to be. It’s time for Governors to fulfil the duties they stepped up to carry out governance in full, not just in the school they govern but across the field of education throughout the county of Surrey. What impacts on one school in one area will impact on every school in the county either educationally, financially or both. Only Governors are independent and overseeing enough to ensure that the best is achieved for every child and resources are not limited to a few fashionable causes.

In times of change some prejudices can inadvertently get in the way of progress. Governors will need to work with all players to support strategic governance and monitor progress, and leaders must use the best from their experience, to examine the latest trends and ensure that changing to a Schools-Led System is as dynamic, rewarding and safe, as it should be in meeting all the stakeholders diverse interests. Select groups or individuals should not benefit disproportionately. It is up to Governing Boards to facilitate, monitor and ensure its success for all children and the community by holding all education provision to account.