Influence = power

26th May 2006 at 01:00
Unravelling the jargon of educationspeak

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

Now, according to the latest concept to disrupt the world of the school workforce, the answer is to build up a relationship of trust and mutual interest, to establish a dialogue. This is often done informally, on a sofa, in the corridor, at the water-cooler.

This is connected leadership in action. Connected leadership isn't about who you can push around, it's about building up a personal bank of goodwill and, a cynic would say, it's about making sure everybody owes you a favour.

Cynicism nowadays has a bad press, but there's really nothing wrong with it. The Greek philosopher Diogenes was the first Cynic, and Alexander the Great thought the world of him. Despite his fame, little is known about Alexander, but we can be fairly sure that influence without power - a 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. With Alexander the Great, influence meant threatening people with violent death, or possibly marrying their daughters.

Certainly the phrase "horizontal relations of reciprocity" was unknown in ancient Macedonia, except possibly behind closed doors. 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. Theoretically, this has to work both ways - you might have to do something for them, so the trick is to get in first.

It is also a good idea 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. This is the dull educationspeak equivalent of a Godfather.

Of course, those of you reaching the age of retirement or burn-out will know that this has all come around before. Horizontal relations of reciprocity was originally one of the great psychedelic concepts 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.

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