A train of thought (more of that later) led me recently to look at some job descriptions on the website for school cleaners. I was amazed by the detail in some. One, for example, for a part-time cleaner was two pages long. It began: "The cleaner will be required to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people."
The long list continues. As well as the expected technical stuff, it requires the cleaner "to work as part of a team of maintenance staff and contribute to the overall ethos, aims and work of the school, by fostering and facilitating good relationships between staff" and "participate in training, other learning activities and professional development as required".
This is a school that is proud of the way all staff are signed up to its core mission, and anxious that recruits realise as much. It wants not a glum mop-pusher but a person who can become a resourceful and committed leader of their part of the school's work.
I turned to this and other job descriptions after reading an article on Buzzle.com by management writer Brent Filson on how leaders know that they are being successful. At least as important as measured results, he says, is the degree to which the people being led are themselves leaders: "If one is a floor sweeper, doesn't one best accomplish one's task not simply by doing floor-sweeping but by taking leadership of floor-sweeping?"
He goes on to explain what this means - showing initiative, setting personal goals, evaluating results, creating an "esprit". (We've all had cleaners like that - going the extra mile every day, watchful of children's welfare, openly proud of the school and their very visible contribution to it.) That works at every level. If top leadership is excellent, then everyone - teacher, head, assistant - will be a leader of his or her own bit of the enterprise, ahead of the game, trying new things, measuring effects, bringing people along, taking pride in being part of the whole.
"Whenever you need to lead people to accomplish a task," says Filson, "challenge them not to do that task but to take leadership of that task.
Your leadership should best be measured not by your leadership but by the leadership of the people you lead."