Take heart, brave warrior

7th September 2007 at 01:00
Welcome to the middle. The dictionary defines "middle" as "an area equidistant from extremities". Starting a new term in a middle position, I expect you are already well aware of your extremities. What might be less clear is the confusing terminology that seems to surround the role. Take the rather odd phrase "leading from the middle". I've had trouble with this from the beginning, always picturing a Braveheart-style battle scene with the hero shouting "charge" from the middle, his front-line troops out of earshot and the back still sorting out their weapons.

And then there is the mix-up of titles "middle managers" and "middle leaders". Is there a difference? And if so, do you know which one you are? Or is it the case that middle managers are simply aspiring leaders? Numerous textbooks on management and leadership have attempted to explain the difference. In your role, aren't you often both?

The semantics may be a little muddled, but the role itself is crystal clear. You, who work in the "middle", are at the very heart of the organisation. You have the advantage of an all-round viewpoint, with a foot firmly in both camps (your extremities). You are most likely to be a day-to-day practitioner in the classroom, which establishes your credibility among your colleagues. At the same time you are likely to lead by example. It will be you who steps up to the plate when the going gets tough. You will, at times, be the shoulder for staff to lean on, but also the person who helps make key operational decisions. You are at the sharp end of raising standards, but also in the thick of it when it comes to analysing where it all went right or wrong.

Your position is unique and special. For those who want to remain in the middle, it has all the possibilities of a challenging and hugely fulfilling career. For those who hope to move up higher, it is an essential, teeth cutting training ground for senior positions.

Welcome again to the middle. It's a great place to be.

Lindy Barclay

Deputy head, Redbridge Community School, Southampton

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