Can you tell them apart?

5th December 2003 at 00:00
A few weeks ago, former chief inspector Chris Woodhead took a pot shot at leadership learning and especially at the National College for School Leadership (TES, October 10). That wasn't surprising - he's had leadership ideas and centres in his sights before.

More worrying was the spectacle of The TES's columnist, Peter Wilby, jumping on part of the Woodhead bandwagon. Leadership and management are very different things, he said. Happily ignoring all the evidence about the importance of context, Wilby relied on his experience of newspaper offices.

"Newspaper editors lead, they have other people to do management," he said. You cannot teach leadership, he said, except through experience. But you can and should teach management, and the NCSL and others needed to understand the distinction between them.

I've lost count of the number of times I've heard platform speakers tell me how vital it is to understand this difference. Usually leadership is about all the sexy bits - values, mission, inspiration - while management is the rubbish, the bureaucracy and the chores.

But in practice, there is a huge area of overlap between leadership and management. For example, both are embedded in the performance of often apparently mundane tasks - say, deciding how to monitor and report on student achievement - rather than rising above them in some abstract way.

It is usually hard to distinguish leadership from management processes.

That hasn't stopped Ofsted attempting to do so in its new inspection framework. Leadership is about providing drive and direction, it says, while management is concerned with making best use of resources and processes. The bullet points it offers under the headings of "the quality of leadership" and "the effectiveness of management" are probably serviceable enough. But they shouldn't mislead us.

Thinking you can teach management but not leadership is based on a misunderstanding. People have certain values, qualities, interests and experience that they bring to tasks relating to leadership and management in education. They can develop their capabilities through acquiring relevant knowledge and skills as well as through sharing experiences with peers and others.

Leadership is the current buzz-word. We mustn't let this drive us into thinking in little boxes.

Professor Ron Glatter is in The Open University's Centre for Educational Policy, Leadership and Lifelong Learning. Would you like to get something off your chest and get paid for it? Send your Sounding Off submission to

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