Why is management a dirty word?

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In the last decade leadership has become a key word at every level of education, and rightly so. This is reflected in the linguistic changes notable in any school or college: Senior Management Teams became Senior Leadership Teams; we all think of ourselves as leaders in learning; student leadership has become a core feature of character development; and we are all aware of the significance that Ofsted attaches to leadership.

A side effect of this emphasis has been to diminish the significance of management to the point where, for some, it has become the dirty word of education, expressive of a bland, uninspired, resource-based approach. But that stereotype of paper pushing managerialism should not condemn efficient management in the field of education.

The term, managerialism, brings to mind a 1950's, 'I'm Alright Jack' (1959 Peter Sellers film for the non-film buff),white collar worker: male, pale and middle aged. The preoccupations were to maintain a status quo, to allocate funding and to measure outcomes through the efficiency of the process in the form of time and motion studies. This concept of management being resource-based was still being expressed forty years later in the existence of terms such as human resources, the ultimate reduction of people into units of a production process. None of this is in tune with the rights and responsibilities of learners or educators in the twenty first century, where the value and potential of collaboration and communication are apparent to us every day in the speed of developments that we witness online.

So, if you are a middle leader or aspiring middle leader today, your professional development is likely to emphasise leadership qualities and values. The excellent SecEd summary by Becky Powell is a case in point: vision, communication and cycle of feedback.

If essential leadership qualities are to be effective they need the practical skills of management to be taught, rather than it being expected that they will be absorbed as part of experience. Project management, time management (remember that work-life balance is the most commonly cited reason for leaving the teaching profession),delegation, budgeting and building a good team are all skills of time, task and people management. Without them leadership is an ambition, not a reality. 

As Steven Covey (of Seven Habits fame) put it ‘Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out'.

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