Leadership or Management in Schools
As part of my NPQML, we had to complete the age-old difference between leadership vs management tasks. These are my thoughts. The leaders project video we watched is no longer on Youtube so I have included this Ted Talk by Seth Godin where he explains the differences between leadership and management.
Is Management the Same as Leadership?
A job with a Manager in the title is not seen as an aspirational job for those looking to develop their leadership role or skills. Aaron Tait hints that it does not conjure up the image of the charismatic go-getter portrayed in media. My Job title was Key Stage Manager, with a lot of administrative tasks attached but in the role, I lead a team of teachers and support staff who need a leader to inspire their practice and a manager to ensure statutory tasks are allocated and completed. Aspects of leadership are vital if we are to stop ticking boxes and begin improving our practice. Likewise, improvement strategies without a managed framework will be less effective and may not be targeted at the right areas.
The Role of Managers and Leaders In Education
My definition of a leader is an inspirational force that determines the momentum of a process.
A manager ensures support and direction are provided, allocated and used effectively.
I have tried to avoid the negative connotations that Aaron Tait initially says can be attached to the title. Although I don’t disagree with him on this. Unlike Aaron, I think that a manager ensures the direction is maintained whilst the leader drives the team forward. This is probably a question of accountability. As managers usually have the authority of a title and given tasks they must therefore be accountable for the results, you may or may not agree. Leaders can arise from anywhere in a hierarchy, often these are reluctant leaders, their authority only coming from their ability to inspire followers to meet a need or project, if that project fails whose fault is it? That of the manager tasked with, and usually paid to ensure its completion. Or the member of staff who led the team to an unsuccessful conclusion? If there is an ethos of support and innovation within the school the roles of manager and leader would be clearly defined.
School leaders are often those who have demonstrated vision and capability in particular areas, they are paid to lead certain areas. It is probably only those that are effective managers that progress, as both sets of skills and personality traits are needed. The importance of growth mindsets is often discussed in relation to school improvement. Are SLT open to these ideas and are staff allowed to embrace this desire for improvement?
Key Differences Between Leaders and Managers in Schools
Here is a discussion of the key differences between leaders and managers in a school setting:
- Vision vs execution. Leaders have a clear vision for where the school needs to go and can inspire others to buy into that vision. Managers focus more on executing day-to-day tasks and operations to keep the school running smoothly.
- Big picture thinking vs details. Leaders think strategically about the long-term goals, priorities, and direction for the school. Managers have to juggle many details and make sure all the small pieces are coordinated.
- Changemakers vs maintainers. Leaders are willing to take risks and initiate changes to improve the school. Managers prefer more stability and focus on maintaining existing structures, policies and ways of doing things.
- Influence vs authority. Leaders rely on influencing and persuading others through inspiration, motivation and collaboration. Managers can direct others’ work through their formal authority and job responsibilities.
- Empowerment vs control. Leaders empower others and build teams that can take on responsibility. Managers tend to centralize control and micromanage tasks themselves or directly supervise others’ work.
- Innovator vs coordinator. Leaders encourage new ideas and are willing to experiment with innovative solutions. Managers coordinate groups and activities, focusing more on efficient implementation within existing paradigms.
- Adaptability vs predictability. Leaders are comfortable with ambiguity and adapting to changes in the environment or priorities. Managers strive for predictability, consistency and well-defined processes.
- Relationship-oriented vs task-oriented. Leaders prioritize developing relationships, trust and morale. Managers focus on getting tasks completed on time and to specifications.
Both roles are important for an effective school, but the leader provides overall direction while the manager ensures day-to-day operations run smoothly according to that vision and plan. An ideal team has both strong leadership and solid management.
I manage and lead in equal amounts switching between the two many times a day. I also work as part of a leadership team whose members have differing strengths from mine. A team whose members complement each other’s skills and support those areas others are weaker will be much more effective than a team whose strengths are all in leadership or all in management. You can read more about my experience on our about us page.