Am I a Leader or a Manager?

I completed my DSBM in 2007 and, as well as some useful strategic tools to take to my role, it gave me a taste for learning that has only recently been suppressed by the sheer workload involved in my current job. My youngest son, in his last year of university, occasionally allows me discuss his coursework with him which helps my withdrawal symptoms, but I know there will come a time when I need to do something else. When I need to immerse myself in the stress and excitement of academia again and find somewhere to discuss theories of strategic, organisational and change management with like-minded weirdos.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I feel myself anywhere close to intelligent enough to pull off a Phd, I’m wracked with self-doubt about my worthiness to write this blog, let alone lead the support function of a MAT, but sitting in a lecture, discussing business theory or tinkering with one so that it applies to education or just my school, is my idea of fun.

Take Porter and his Value Chain, one of my favourite theories. He illustrated how a product passing through each activity carried out by the business in a certain order added to the value of that product (I can tell you’re already asleep!) But think how that can be rewritten to be relevant to a school, and it suddenly becomes an interesting way to look at how education actually works. How the activities and processes of the business (school), carried out in a strategic order, add value along the way until the end profit (exam results) are achieved.

OK. So it’s not for everyone. I’ll admit that it takes the human factor out of it to an extent, but I believe that there are enough leaders in a school who focus on “the children”. As an SBM my role is to focus on the organisation itself and manage the support functions such as Infrastructure and Procurement. I’m there to consider the business in a strategic sense, to lead change, and to consider the PESTEL that might effect success. I’m there to manage the Business.

As we all know, the second rule of exam success – ANSWER THE QUESTION (the first being – write your name on the paper) so back to my title and my question, am I a leader or a manager? It’s interesting that I have used both terms to describe my role in this article and I am actually both, but I believe the business theories and practice I’ve seen; and my experience brings me to a simple conclusion.

When it comes to the wonderfully talented people I work with, of course I want to lead. I want to show them the way, take them with me, understand their concerns and encourage their success, I want to feel warm and cosy with them.

In reality, what they want is for me to manage the situation, sort out problems that they find insurmountable, be accountable and take responsibility for their mistakes along the way, be a sounding board, someone who is always there, the backstop. In short, they want me to be in charge, so that they can go home at 5pm and sleep at night. They want me to manage.

So I will stick with the term SBM. I’ll be proud of my rhino-hide skin, my ability to take charge, my solution-oriented approach, their confidence in me, the understanding among my support colleagues that they may have the glory of success but if it goes wrong, the buck stops with me. I will be the one that wakes up in the night so they don’t have to and I will be the one to whom they can always turn.

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