This country, as we know, is blessed with many excellent school leaders. But how would they cope in the corporate world? If they can weather Ofsted, could they handle an Alan Sugar?
To test the thesis, TES asked a firm of city headhunters to assess three of them (see pages 26-30). The results were impressive. It seems that the best school leaders can match the very best in the private sector. In terms of leadership, charisma, intellectual curiosity, organisational acuity, teamwork and ability to function under pressure they were second to none. In terms of integrity, big-picture thinking and sense of purpose they were stellar, outclassing most corporate executives.
What was particularly impressive was the way they completely identified with their schools. "The school is me," said one. Admittedly, this isn't necessarily a plus. "L'etat c'est moi," said Louis XIV, as he waged war on a continent and took out a 100 per cent mortgage on a naff conservatory called Versailles. But on-task, single-minded missionaries with a moral purpose are different and exactly what successful organisations want. It's a worry only if the head glides in one morning in a large wig and orders the staff to besiege Maastricht.
If the skills school leaders possess are of such value, business surely isn't the only field that could benefit. Clearly, the profession needs excellent people to do the jobs they are already doing in schools. But what's wrong with a bit of idle speculation? How might the country gain if heads were induced to prowl further than the school corridors and the lavs?
The great offices of state would be obvious beneficiaries. Surpluses, unknown to the Treasury, are as common as nits in schools. The Home Office would be a perfect fit for behaviour experts. The queues at passport control might not be any shorter but by God they'd be quiet. And the Foreign Office would be a doddle. Anyone accustomed to dealing coolly with local authorities, the unions and Ryan's parents could certainly negotiate their way through a European Union summit.
Then there's sport. Teachers nursed the nation's sporting heroes to Olympic glory. But their coaching talents remain underused. Did Roman Abramovich consider poaching the head of PE at his local school before settling on Rafa Benitez? We suspect not. But it would have been a more inspired choice and a damn sight cheaper.
Sadly, the powers that be seem to have settled on gifted amateurs for the posts of director general of the BBC and governor of the Bank of England. But it would be a travesty if the trustees didn't consider a headteacher to lead the Royal Opera House. Our great arts institutions need people who know how to put on a show with a limited budget, a bit of tulle and a choir that insists on waving at the audience.
Of course, some occupations remain totally unsuitable. The Church of England will only recruit people who can grow facial hair to top positions. Television chefs need foul-mouthed skills that have been largely bred out of the teaching profession. And not even the rigours of the school canteen can prepare heads for the long, well-watered lunches that magazine editors are forced to endure on an almost daily basis ...