Professor Brighouse told Bradford heads that they must treat commands from Government and their local authority with a healthy degree of insubordination.
"Loving disobedience is something that all heads should master," he told the conference. "If your values are right and you want to cope with all the changes, you have to be lovingly disobedient. When the director of education says to you 'Why haven't you done such-and-such?', you say 'Oh my God! If I thought you wanted that I would have done it.' It works a treat."
The visionary academic went on to suggest tips for teachers to better relate to their pupils, for example cutting out magazine articles and saying: "I saw this and thought of you." Stealing pupils' snacks is also recommended. "They love it if you steal crisps, providing you don't take the whole packet," he said.
He recalled that an Office for Standards in Education report last year had found that the most successful primary heads were "the grey-haired subversives", those with plenty of experience who were willing to flout the rules.
And it was not only Professor Brighouse who encouraged the headteachers to rebel. Maureen Burns, a director of the Department for Education and Skills innovation unit, also advised the heads to consider rule-breaking.
She commended Hardial Hayer, head at Radclyffe school in Oldham. He had earlier admitted that he had given pupils an extra day off so staff could have more training. Ms Burns said that others could learn from Mr Hayer's example. She said: "It's much better to ask forgiveness than gain permission."
Mark Pattison, managing director of Education Bradford, the private firm which runs the city's schools, said he was willing to accept some insubordination: "I give you permission to be lovingly disobedient," he said. "Providing it is loving."