Tony Gurr

Have our Educational Leaders got the “STUFF”?

In Educational Leadership, Quality & Institutional Effectiveness on 30/08/2011 at 5:59 pm

Earlier, in a post on teacher LEARNing, I mentioned Tom Peters – the “guru of gurus” (or, “uber-guru” as the Economist describes him), in the world of business!

A friend of mine called and asked me why I so often refer to “business leaders” when I talk about educational leadershipa good question. He also said that it might be counter-productive as educators have little time for allthingsbusinessnot 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 leadershipgood 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 moreif 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 alllet’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 placeor 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”):

Now, tell me…if Peters not describing the “ideal boss” here – or even, the ideal colleague?

OK – enough of my hero-worship!


What Peters says has a great deal of relevance for education, for teachers, for learnersand 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? 
And, if you are an educational leader rşght now:
  • Do I have the “stuff”? If not, how do I know and what can I do about it?


But, that’s for another post!

  1. […] Have our Educational Leaders got the “STUFF”? | allthingslearning […]

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