Leadership vs. Management

smartphone-battery

School leadership positions require a lot of energy. In a way, people in school leadership positions are expected to operate a lot like a battery, to have an energy source of their own, to have a source of answers, to have a source of ideas, to have a source of solutions and to provide all of those things for everyone else around them at will.

Like all batteries, however, the energy eventually runs out.

One of the biggest drains on this energy are the people who consistently need managing. By managing, I mean the people who need constant persuasion to:

(a) do their job

(b) do their job properly

(c) do their job well

This management of people is particularly debilitating as it tends to be never-ending.

During his keynote speech at the IB Annual Conference a few years ago, Richard Gerver stated that he always tries to hire people who don’t need to be managed. The fact that so much energy can be conserved as a result of not having to do the three things listed above means that it can be converted into the energy of inspiration, which I see as:

(1) inspiring people to push their own boundaries

(2) inspiring people to challenge norms

(3) inspiring people to reimagine what their jobs are in the first place

Now, in most schools – as far as I am aware – there are people who don’t need to be managed and there are people who do. The ratios obviously depend on all sorts of factors, recruitment – as Richard points out – probably being Number 1. Sadly, however, the energy output involved in managing the ones who need managing leaves little left for those who don’t. Yet they have a different, but entirely equal, need to be inspired. To ignore them may be more of an omission for the well-being of the school than to ignore those who need managing.

Unfortunately, people in school leadership positions suffer from an inability to define their roles with any certainty. They are referred to as “management”, “administration” or “leadership”. Implicit in the labels of “management” or “administration” is the perceived inevitability of having to get people to do their job. As long as people in those positions see themselves that way, that is what they will end up doing with most of their time and energy. It is also what everyone they are managing expects them to do too… leading to a disturbing culture of adult “learned helplessness”. Assuming that people in those positions were formerly teachers, one must also assume that the skills that led to them being promoted came from the management of students. Yet, we must surely be moving away from an educational culture based on the management of students. So, too, we should be moving away from a culture of having to manage teachers.

“Leadership” on the other hand, has entirely different connotations. Not always good ones, admittedly! But implicit in the idea of a leader is the ability to inspire. Again, assuming people in “leadership” positions were formerly teachers, we must also assume that the skills that led to them being promoted came from the inspiration of students.

I wonder how often this is truly the case?

And, when it is the case… how long can those people last until:

(a) they just become managers

(b) they give up

(c) they leave the profession

 

Header image from techpp.com

 

 

 

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9 comments

    • nina davis

      I had the opportunity to learn from Dr Elizabeth Mellor about leadership. During her sessions I recorded her beliefs. She used the term ‘you as a leader’. Here are her thoughts summed up… Why a leader is different to a manager.

      You, as a leader, will be different to a manager, you will be finding solutions, you will use your courage and confidence to influence others, you will speak a common language and find that common language so you can move forward. You will empower others and be an enabler so you can shift barriers. You will encourage others to ‘think big’ and work towards delivering transformational change. You will coach others on how to measure change, be respectful and a listener so you understand and collaborate.
      You will not shy from anything and you will get in and learn. You will empower others to solve problems because you can’t fix it all. You will take risks and from taking risks you will gain experience to put into other aspects of your role. You will give others a voice and act on what they want and work side by side with them to achieve your common goals. You will be capable of ‘unlearning’ and not be judgmental. You will build a ‘treasury’ of good practice to help you evaluate actions and capture what has been learnt so you can measure the impact of changes and improvements.
      And finally, you will deliver to every child and family. Your flexibility will be key to you being a leader, as without flexibility you will impede innovation. You, as a leader, must leave the profession in a better state and by building the capacity of others you should do yourself out of a job!

      Cheers Nina

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