Posts Tagged ‘vision’

The Fish Rots From the Head

October 4, 2014

The saying goes that the fish rots from the head. Now, even though I’ve been a fishing girl all my life I cannot attest to the veracity of this statement but I like it and it has a certain ring of truth. It makes sense that the rot would set in from the head, given the brain and eyes and liquidy, mushy things reside there. I’m sure we rot from the head too, given the right circumstances.

But if we take the saying metaphorically, which is how it is meant most of the time, we can see the truth of the matter. Most organizations don’t fall apart from the bottom. No, businesses, companies and countries founder on the decisions and errors of those at the top, those with the big salaries, the big responsibilities, who are supposedly paid these astronomical figures to not fall apart.

When the banks went bust a few years ago, it wasn’t because of the tellers, or even your personal manager at the Commonwealth or Barclays. It was the traders, the CEO’s, the guys who deal in numbers not people, who earn ridiculous salaries for playing all day with other people’s money. Yes, a few got sacked, but we all know their bonuses are as robust as ever, while we, the innocent pay for their excesses with this endless English Narnia winter of austerity. When Greece and Ireland went bust a few years ago it wasn’t because of the normal taxpaying worker. No it was greedy governments, corrupt businessmen, grasping corporations. And now people can’t pay their bills or feed their families.

This unpleasant truth can also be applied to families. We learn everything first from the home. We learn how to behave, how to treat others, how to learn, how to take responsibility for ourselves. You name it, it all starts at home. And if the head of the family – the parents – are useless, absent, negligent, abusive, casual, unloving, uncaring (you get the picture), you can hardly blame the poor children for not knowing what’s what. A family is a little business, a little company all of its own making and parents shouldn’t even begin to start their own ‘company’ if they’re not going to ensure they do the job properly, with some integrity and consistency.

My good friend, Sir Michael Wilshaw has also noted that schools rot from the head. He’s on the record about the importance of good leadership, of good governance, of accountability and holding head-teachers to account more rigorously.

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But what is good, effective leadership? There are tomes out there about it, the qualities you need: there are endless training courses to become an effective leader. Education has its own special training for aspiring leaders – Future Leaders. But I will not dwell there, not even for a nano-second.

Based on a meager 30 years in Education at a mere 11 schools across the planet, this is what I think good educational leadership looks like.

1.Vision – personal, true and realizable, that people understand and go with

2.Energy – drive and passion about education and children – that inspires others

3.Intellect – a clear understanding about what education is, how it works and what is needed to make it work

4.Integrity – personal integrity, and for the organization – follow the maxim that if you can’t tell your partner about what you did today then perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it

5.People skills – a clear ability to understand your staff, what they need, how to support them and take them with you – not in a matey over-familiar way but in a ‘we’re in this together, making it better together’ authentic way. Key to this is the ability to listen to your staff and students – to accept their views, giving them serious consideration, after all the school does not belong to the head-teacher alone

6.Courage – to do what is right, to stand up to external forces of darkness and do the right thing by the students, the staff and the parents of the school

 

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Whereas this is crap leadership

1.Bullying and intimidation – despite schools supposedly being ‘bully free zones’

2.Telling people what to do – are we all in the army now?

3.Changing procedures and requirements all the time – never giving anything time to bed in, be reviewed or improved or allowing the TIME for things

4.Not listening to anyone, because as you’re HT, you know it all – especially not allowing staff meetings where matters are discussed

5.Not understanding that education is a human endeavour – it’s about people not numbers and data, and teachers aren’t machines, nor are students

6.Constantly monitoring everything teachers do – because clearly having a university education means we are incapable of thinking for ourselves or doing our job if someone isn’t there to make sure we are!

This is the cascading shit model of leadership, shit decisions made at the top, cascaded down to the minions at the bottom who simply have to do, not question, no matter how non-sensical or counter-productive, who end up in shit up to their knees, because they can’t shovel it away quickly enough before the next wave comes down. This is the epitome of crap leadership, and a lot of it’s to do with fear, fear of the masses, who might actually know something, so at all costs they cannot be allowed to speak or question. Just do.

The sad fact, as observed by Douglas Adams amongst others, is that all too often the exact people who shouldn’t be in leadership positions are often the ones who are! Think about your average psychotic leader – Hitler, Idi Amin, Vladimir Putin, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Abbot, etc and I think you get my drift.

Perhaps we need more dolphins in charge – thoughtful, intelligent, sociable creatures? But didn’t they leave the planet just before the Vogons struck… (Images courtesy Private Collection)

An Allegory: The Cowboy and the Idiot – Part 1

November 9, 2013

Once upon a time in a place that could be nearer than you think and not so long ago as you’d like, an old cowboy looked around the town and wondered how the new sheriff was going to cope. The town was still a bit rough, a bit ragged around the edges despite the years and the various waves of change sweeping through, but its heart was in the right place and most of his work was done here.

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The new guy was less than prepossessing to say the least. Crueler people, and there were many in the town who cheerfully called a spade a spade and a fool an idiot, would not find it possible to see what it was that had elevated this man. The cowboy looked at the sheriff, peered into his pale watery eyes, failed to find a chin, or anything defined about his face. His complexion was pale; pasty really, and his hair was mousy and dirty-blond under his new black ten gallon hat that sat uncomfortably on his head. His colourless lips quivered over his over-bite and the cowboy was put in mind of a blobby jellyfish. How would he survive in the heat of this place?

‘You’re one of my heroes,’ the sheriff said to the cowboy.

The cowboy nodded. He was used to being admired. But not liked very much, well by a select few but that didn’t matter: he had a job to do and all that mattered was that he did it well. He looked to the horizon, to where he needed to be sooner rather than later, to where his new boys were waiting for him.

‘There’s a lot to be done,’ the sheriff said looking around the dusty town, at the saloon, the bank, the store; down the street to where the church sat, seeming to watch over them all. He didn’t really like that he would be able to see the graveyard from his desk. ‘Will you be staying long?’

The cowboy shook his head. ‘Need to be moving by the morning. Be out of your way then.’

The sheriff’s hands shook a little as he rested them on his skinny hips, standing with his legs astride in what he hoped was a dominant pose. ‘I thought you might be around for a bit so we could chat. You know, shoot the breeze about how to tame this place, make it the promised land like the boys at home want us to, like those other places are.’

The cowboy almost smiled. ‘No. It’s time for your sort of law enforcement, you were elected to sort out this place, so you need to begin as you mean to go on. I’m not the sheriff, just a lone cowboy doing his best.’

The sheriff allowed himself a smile. ‘Ah, Mick, you shouldn’t under-rate yourself. Between us we’ll turn this county around and show those boys back home in the big smoke how to run things. And then, who knows what triumphs will follow?’

The cowboy nodded. ‘Yep. We’ll make a difference. But you here, in your way and me out there in the wilds, in my way. From time to time our paths will cross but for now I’ll let you settle in and get the measure of the town yourself.’

The cowboy gave the sheriff one last look up and down and wondered what would become of the place. How aligned were they? Could this weed of a man make a difference or was he just bolstered by his devoted supporters and his own rampant ego? Mind you, as the cowboy well knew, a big ego could take you a long way. If he was to give the sheriff any advice it would be to trust his own instincts, not to listen to the nay-sayers and especially not the hedonistic, ne’er do wells in the saloon. If he had his way the whole place would be blown sky high. This land, this hot, dusty inhospitable environment was a place for work, hard work and no shirking. It was a place for devotion, for determination, for sacrifice and courage. He knew these things as truth and expected others to come to that truth as well, willingly or not. He knew his single minded approach to law enforcement, his own maverick brand of justice was the right thing. He guessed that as the new sheriff was a fan then he would be in accord with the cowboy and they would make the land over in their own image.

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The idiot watched the cowboy fade into the sunset and felt a shiver of determination wash over him such that he stood a little taller in his shiny new boots and stretched his giblet neck to assume an altogether bigger posture. He would shake this town up like nothing on earth. He knew, as sure as eggs were eggs and the sun rose in the east that this town was gonna change. He smirked, as he was wont to do, these townies hadn’t a clue what was coming. He knew what he wanted, and this place bore no resemblance to the sort of town he wanted.

For a moment his vision glimmered in the heat: he saw the golden age, a place and time when the world was as he wanted, where it was just like where he grew up: where things were good and right. He would have that time again. (Images from Google Images)