This issue looks at the differences between leadership and management, and examines the skills and dispositions involved these vital aspects of your work

I wanted to write about leading and managing people because of a question that was asked to me by a friend who is an accountant interested in becoming a business manager in a school. His question was; ‘How often do business managers lead staff, or do they just manage?’ In his current post there were only three staff, all of equal status and as they all had different accounts no one led anyone. He was intrigued as to the challenges he would face and wondered whether he would cope in leading a significant number of staff. Of course, I did suggest the Certificate and Diploma of School Business Management (CSBM and DSBM) although I am unsure whether these would be appropriate as he already holds a degree. I also pointed him in the direction of a few books on the role of the school business manager, but his question made me re-evaluate my role of business manager and realise how leadership and management is such an important part of my job.

At certain times I am sure that my role is purely management and wondered when I do actually lead staff. However, we all know that this is not the case, and even though I believe leadership and management should have equal prominence there is actually a difference between the two; management relies on the skills of planning, communication, organising and delivering, and leadership relies on qualities such as integrity, confidence, compassion, sensitivity and charisma; but they are linked and to be successful we use a combination of the numerous qualities and skills (skills alone do not make a good leader).

As business managers we face enormous pressure as we lead our staff through times of unprecedented change, especially as the roles and role relationships of our staff change dramatically with the never ending process of job evaluation, rarely cover and other education initiatives. If we are to operate effectively we need to have a leadership presence that others will follow and respect, more importantly we need to ‘walk the talk’.

What kind of a leader are you going to be – the kind who thinks he or she is the best? Or will you be one of the very few greats who attributes success to the rest?

How do we know what kind of leader we are and just as importantly, what kind of leader do our staff want? Do they want someone who is always affable but indecisive or are they better off with the kind of business manager who is not afraid to take risks if he or she is convinced about the course of action the team needs to take? I have never asked my staff what type of leader they would like, have you? Personally, I would like someone who is strong enough to make a decision without ‘dithering’, especially so in middle leaders, and for them to have the ability to make good decisions, especially in the moments of crisis. I want leaders to be clear in their choices and opinions and to be assertive but not aggressive. A good leader will also have the personality and self-confidence to change their leadership style to suit a situation or an environment and will appreciate that each group of people may require a different leadership approach.

Leaders will be able to effectively communicate the vision and values of the school and will be aware of how change affects their workers. No matter how complex the information being communicated, good leaders have an understanding of the people they are trying to reach. Communication is so important but often fails, with relevant information not being filtered down to the key staff in the school. This frequently happens in my own school, notably myself and the rest of the support staff team being the last to receive information, causing considerable disruption to day-to-day work.

Good leaders motivate their staff using a variety of skills, which have been learned through training and experience. They also lead by example and are remembered for being seen and working as a team – they are not remembered for constantly sitting at their desk. For business managers this is a difficult task as I’d say about 80% of my workload incorporates a lot of paperwork (whatever happened to the paperless society?) and involves me sitting at my desk; how, then, can I lead by example? As a leader it is up to me to provide my staff with the insight that they are part of the big picture of the school, they are a part of its successes. I think it’s time for a complete reshuffle of how I manage my work. What percentage of your time is spent in your office (that’s if you are lucky enough to have your own office)?

Low morale among staff is deadly and can affect the work of your team; it will also generate problems and complaints. Good leaders will motivate their staff and have the ability to recognise qualities and the potential in others, which will result in effective work performance and provide an incentive to remain employed at the school. As business managers we should be inspiring, sometimes infuriating and challenging the support team, creating visions and pictures of the future and where we want to take them within the school. A good leader can provide a calm centre in the middle of a crisis and can convey the feeling that in the end everything will be all right.

Business managers should be looking for the ‘leaders for tomorrow’ and we should use our experience and vision to spot the potential of staff and nurture their leadership skills. Remember though, staff who are good at their job and get results are not always suited to leadership, it just means they are good at completing their tasks.

For more on leadership, see John Schoollands’s ‘The image of leadership’.

Finally, I noticed on the TDA website that all those with leadership and management responsibilities, ie members of leadership groups and all those outside these groups with leadership and management responsibilities within the school should have time to focus on these activities. This should be in addition to their PPA time and with full acknowledgement of their work/life balance.

Those entitled to this time may include subject leaders and coordinators, pastoral leaders, advanced skills teachers, SENCOs and initial teacher training mentors. No mention whatsoever of support staff who hold leadership and management responsibilities.

I most certainly do not receive any specific time to concentrate on these responsibilities and, as I stated previously, I spend a lot of time in my office completing paperwork that is not significant to leading and managing my staff. I also know that my staff who do complete some of the activities below do not receive any time to assist them in their responsibilities. It is apparently at the school’s discretion as to the allocation of time for these activities, and interpretation of what these activities will be will differ from school to school. They do give the following examples:

  • school improvement agenda
  • professional discussions with staff
  • monitoring
  • behavioural management
  • liaison with other agencies
  • parent and governor liaison.

The school’s pastoral officer and inclusion support worker do not receive time to complete any of these activities; in fact they often work over their hours so that they can meet with parents and governors. I am currently working (when I’m given time!) on a report to governors and the senior leadership team providing evidence that staff are undertaking some of the above activities, incorporating a request to have time allocated to them so that they may complete them without detriment to their work/life balance. As a leader this is where I can make a difference to my staff, having the knowledge of their role and leadership skills to demonstrate the impact their work is having on the raising of standards in the school, and to influence the school policy.

I hope you will have noticed positive leadership attributes of your role and maybe some areas to develop. I certainly have and I wrote the article.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in February 2010

About the author: Lindsey Lester is School Business Manager at St Martins Catholic School, Leicester