Get with the connection

6th January 2006 at 00:00
Unravelling the jargon of education speak

What would make you want to help someone even though you didn't have to? The answers to this used to be so easy: money, or the threat of violent death, spring to mind.

Now, according to the latest concept to disrupt the vicious, paranoid world of the school workforce (previously known as teachers), the answer is to build up a relationship of trust and mutual interest, to establish a dialogue.

This is connected leadership in action. Connected leadership isn't about who you can push around, it's about who you talk to, who you influence.

It's about building up a personal bank of goodwill and... well, a cynic would say it's about making sure everybody owes you a favour.

Cynicism nowadays has a bad press, but there's nothing wrong with it. The Greek philosopher Diogenes was the first cynic, and Alexander the Great thought the world of him, which was quite something when you remember that he ruled most of it. Despite his fame, little is known about Alexander, but we can be fairly sure that influence without power - another feature of the connected leadership concept, in which the lowliest teaching assistant can turn out to be running the school - did not play a part in his strategy for conquering the known world. For Alexander, influence meant threatening people with violent death.

Certainly, the phrase "horizontal relations of reciprocity" was unknown in ancient Macedonia. But that is, apparently, connected leadership in a nutshell. Get enough people to really want to do things for you and you can be a major player in the connected leadership game. (It is also a good idea, although this isn't in the manual, to keep them isolated and off-balance, so that while you're connected to all of them they are all only connected to one person: you.) Of course, those of us reaching the age of burn-out know that this is a blatant rip-off. "Horizontal Relations of Reciprocity" was originally one of the great psychedelic albums of the late Sixties, by that acid-raddled band the Connected Leaders. Then, as now, it was seen by its devotees as deeply meaningful, while everyone else thought it was impenetrable tosh.

Back in those heady days everyone thought change was imperative and the status quo was not an option. Today, the Connected Leaders are long gone.

Status Quo, however, is still with us.

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