We are not all cut out to be a Lord Nelson but are you a “lollipop” giver?
Leadership – what is it? A common definition is:
- the action of leading a group of people or an organization, or the ability to do this.
"different styles of leadership"
guidance, direction, authority, control, management, superintendence, supervision;
(Source: leadership - Google Search)
In a school setting, it is easy to extrapolate this to see that the many different teams and groups will usually be led and controlled by somebody. It also becomes evident that there will be a variety of different leaders who will employ different styles to attempt to ensure that the group or team that they lead is successful. Topically, just think of Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un, Aung San Suu Kyi, Teresa May or Jeremy Corbyn and the varied nature of how they attempt to lead.
The school business leader, which is something I especially like the sound of, is a leader who has to employ a number of different styles, often at the same time, to ensure that the particular area of responsibility, and the staff in that area, are performing to the best possible standard that they can be.
Taking a look at the NASBM Professional Standards and being able to take the lead in the multi-faceted and diverse world of school business management/leadership is clearly evident.
As an ex-military man of 23 years’ experience in the Royal Air Force, rank structure and discipline were an integral part of my first day of service and lasted throughout until I left. I remember my annual appraisals included a score for leadership and a section devoted solely to this. The scale was a 1-9, 9 being the highest performance possible. The need to get “high” numbers was always very fiercely contested on promotion boards, particularly in lean times when promotion boards did not have many vacancies for advancement. I always used to think, about leadership then – as to what makes a good leader?
Sticking with the military theme, there have been many successful (and unsuccessful come to think of it!) military leaders. Situations such as that of battle or conflict often could arguably be the epitome of discovering how good a leader is. Take Lord Nelson for example, a naval captain before he was 21, a household name throughout most of Europe at 39 and killed in action just weeks after his 47th birthday, he lived a colourful and crowded life.
He won three of the most decisive naval victories in British history at the Nile (1798), Copenhagen (1801) and Trafalgar (1805), and he was seriously wounded four times in the process. He always led from the front - even, at the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797, personally leading the British boarding parties that captured two Spanish battleships in ferocious hand-to-hand fighting. If the Victoria Cross had been in existence in his lifetime, he would have qualified for it on at least three occasions. Incidentally, only 3 men have won two VC's in the history of the medal. The double VC holders were Surgeon Captain Arthur Martin-Leake, Captain Noel Chavasse and Captain Charles Upham. Surgeon Captain Arthur Martin-Leake won his first VC in 1902 during the Boer War. He treated a wounded soldier just 100 metres from the enemy's line.
All this talk of leadership (and bravery) in battle seems a far cry from the “battleground” of the school environment but I suspect that many school business leaders and managers will feel that this isn’t sometimes that far from the truth of working in a modern day school setting.
Talking of battles, it reminds of the quote by German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke.
“No battle plan,” he sagely noted, “survives contact with the enemy.”
Therefore, no matter what you plan or what your plans are, sole reliance upon them will often lead to failure. However, the ability to have a plan and to change or alter that plan after something goes wrong is a greater measure of a good leader.
Leadership comes in many forms and styles and it would be remiss of me to say what works and does not, as this will be dependent on many factors. My personal overriding view on leadership is that having the experience of dealing with a variety of situations and people will help. Mistakes will invariably happen but that is what people learn from and makes for better decision making the next time a similar problem or issue occurs.
I am a lover of TED talks and find the range of topics and speakers fascinating and often provides a totally different angle on which to view and take a look at situations. One very good one, in my opinion, is by a man called Drew Dudley about everyday leadership. It can be found here:
The very intriguing part of this, for me, is how the speaker identifies that as a leader we don’t have to think we can have to change the world to make a difference. All too often leadership is placed on a plinth of highest regard -that only truly bestowed people can be elevated to. Quite often, most school business leaders and managers have demonstrated leadership qualities that have made a difference to someone without knowing it. Unlike Lord Nelson, you may not have won a battle but the results of what you did could be equally as victorious or life changing to that other person. You may well have achieved one or several “lollipop” moments yourself and just not realised.
By Andy Heron - October 2017