A management consultant with no direct experience of school leadership is the odds-on favourite to become the new general secretary of a leading headteachers' association.
Russell Hobby, head of marketing and research at Hay Group management consultancy, has been confirmed as teaching union NAHT's preferred candidate to replace Mick Brookes.
Senior figures involved in his selection say the 38-year-old Oxford graduate has the "excellent" presentation and communication skills needed to deal with both policymakers and association members.
Mr Hobby, who was head of education at Hay for five years and is co-author of The School Recruitment Handbook, has fought off around 100 other applicants for the job.
He will learn today if anyone has stepped forward to challenge him for the post, a move which would trigger a poll of members.
The appointment of Mr Brookes, a former primary school head, followed a fiercely fought contest in which he defeated the union's then preferred candidate, David Hawker.
Stephen Watkins, chair of the NAHT's personnel committee, said the interview panel had been impressed by Mr Hobby's experience of advising headteachers through Hay and the then National College of School Leadership.
"He has done a lot of work on school management and understands school systems even though he has never run a school," said Mr Watkins.
"The majority of applicants had not run a school as it was not a requirement in the job advert."
He added that although Mick Brookes is a former primary school head, his long-serving predecessor, David Hart, had a legal background.
Mr Hobby, a father of two, said he had already enjoyed working with heads for 10 years through leadership development programmes.
He told The TES: "I have seen the huge fun of the job and this is a great opportunity to get involved in helping out with that.
"That I am not a headteacher is a legitimate question to raise, but my argument back is that the skills you need to be a general secretary are not necessarily the same."
He said he would be able to approach the issues from a more subjective viewpoint.
"I would be less influenced by my personal experiences of headship," he said.
He added that if appointed to the post he intended to "respond vigorously" to backlash over public sector pay and wanted to create a "more balanced" approach to school accountability.
RUSSELL HOBBY'S CV
Primary school: St Nicolas C of E, Abingdon, Oxfordshire
Senior school: John Mason School, Abingdon
University: Philosophy, politics and economics, Corpus Christi College, Oxford
1993-1998: project managed software development for two IT start-ups
1998: Hay Group as general management consultant
2002: head of education at Hay
2007: head of marketing and research at Hay Group UK.