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Bottom up is the new style

Energy and an effective alarm clock are apparently two prerequisites of a college leader. Armed with these, what comes next? According to all the latest research, if you are aiming to reach the top - and planning to stay there - you may have to lose all your preconceptions of what leadership entails.

Gone are the days when leaders could get away with barking orders from the comfort of a vast office with the protection of an imperial guard of PAs - even in the learning and skills sector. Now they need advanced "people skills", the ability to inspire those around them to greater heights . They must be able to spot talent and nurture their future replacements.

As you read through these pages, don't be surprised if you find yourself humming the Stranglers' classic 'No More Heroes'. College managers say the superhero leaders, the likes of David Beckham and Margaret Thatcher have passed the torch to the inspirers such as Gandhi and Nelson Mandela (page 4).

This switch in perception, we hope, will help those ethnic minority staff who are so unrepresented in the higher echelons of the sector, partially because the once-accepted definitions of a leader conspired to keep them out of office. Could the change in management style lead to more black principals joining the seven in England's colleges (page 6) The team ethos created by new-style managers has also led to the development of innovative training programmes. Instead of always looking up for advice and training, have you considered focusing on those around you, or even looking down a management level. It has worked wonders for one London college as our feature on mentoring (page 8) reveals.

Taking on its own leader's guise is the Centre for Excellence in Leadership. Buoyed by the news of its contract extension and the Foster report, it is turning its attention to the looming loss of a generation of principals who are relishing gardening in retirement. Can the centre help spot which middle-managers can be groomed - and , just as importantly - persuaded to fill their boss's shoes? (page 10).

And if you still feel you're up for the job, we recommend resources to help you (page 14).

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