A friend of mine called and asked me why I so often refer to “business leaders” when I talk about educational leadership – a good question. He also said that it might be counter-productive as educators have little time for allthingsbusiness – not so smart!
The answer is simple – part of our trouble in educational leadership is that we have tried to set up our LEARNing on leadership as a “separate discipline” (damn those bloody academics!) – as if educational leadership were something totally different to leadership in business, health, or dentistry…
Leadership is leadership – good leadership is good leadership! And, if we can learn something from business, health, or dentistry – sobeit!
Besides – Tom’s a cool dude!
So, I’m going to take a closer look at “Uncle Tom” and see if he can help us out some more – if that’s OK?
The title of this post is not something Peters asks per se – but he does talk about the “stuff” quite a lot. For him, the “stuff” is:
I can almost see my friend “cringe” as he reads the last of those!
Perhaps, I can redeem myself by also adding that Peters’ view of leadership is not that of the “all-knowing-commander” or “order-giver-extraordinaire” (we touched on this in an earlier post – the “my-way-or-the-highway” approach to leadership in education) – and that Peters himself believes that the traditional textbook definition is fatally and fundamentally flawed!
OK, OK – perhaps we need to modify what Tom says for educational leaders – and re-order it a bit:
That “fits” better…yes?
Tom also tells us (among many other pearls of wisdom –often presented in bright colours and outlandish typefaces) that:
- Leaders love “mess”!
- Leaders understand that “it all depends”!
- Leaders “do” (and “re-do” – because they make “mistakes” – OMG)!
- Leaders create blame-free cultures – and engender trust!
- Leaders accept responsibility!
- Leaders break down barriers!
- Leaders connect!
- Leaders nurture (and build up) other leaders!
- Leaders are great learners – who give credit!
- Leaders know themselves!
- Leaders do stuff that matters!
Come on! Who is gonna disagree with that? Isn’t this what all educators want from their learners, their leaders – and themselves? This Tom bloke might be onto something, after all – let’s elect all these leaders to run our countries. Hell – let’s hire all of them to run our schools and universities, right now!
Peters believes all this (and boy, does he believe it – with a passion) because we have to accept that the world is today a very different place – or that the world of business today is very different to that of “yesterday”.
Hmmmm – could that be true of education, acaba?
So, anyway…he tells us, we need very “different” leaders – from those we had “yesterday“:
Personally, one of the things I really like is the way Tom tries to help us understand the need to tear down a lot of the myths that hold us back:
- Leaders are not the best performers!
- Leaders say “I don’t know”!
- Leaders put people first – really, really, really!
This last one is the crown jewel for many educators – and demonstrates that leadership is really about people (not just “lip-service” about people). Peters focuses a great deal of his attention on the idea of leaders as “talent developers” (the “people stuff”):
OK – enough of my hero-worship!
What Peters says has a great deal of relevance for education, for teachers, for learners – and educational leadership. Indeed, what he is talking about gives us a pretty good “model” for what leaders need to know (dare, I say it – “be”) and what they need to do.
In fact, if we really push the envelope, there is not a lot more to do – apart from a few more questions about:
The people stuff (leaders as “talent developers”) – in education:
The inspiration stuff (leaders as “dealers in hope”) – in education:
The results stuff (leaders as “success mechanics” - and not just mechanics of “exam results”!) – in education:
Oh, yes – and a couple more questions:
- Is all this stuff “learnable”?
- Does all this stuff apply only to high-ranking, formal leaders in education – or also teachers, too?
- Do I have the “stuff”? If not, how do I know and what can I do about it?
But, that’s for another post!