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Surgeon or Architect: Do You Need a Career Change?

There’s nothing like a good bit of research and a nice neat model to sucker me in.  The report on the impact of different types of leaders on turning around failing schools by Alex Hill and Ben Laker, from the Centre for High Performance, is well worth reading.

The graphic identifies the five groups and in terms of education I fit neatly into the Soldier Group having taught Chemistry for many years alongside Biology (not mentioned) whilst also teaching Physics (Architect Group).  In terms of actions, having detached the graphic below from the headings above, I can honestly say I tick each one on the boxes.

Over twenty one years as a senior leader – five as a deputy, fourteen as a head and now two as a CEO of a Trust – I’ve addressed poor performance and sought to improve pupil behaviour.  Worked hard to reduce costs, every nearly wasted penny saved can be spent on pupils, staffing and the learning environment.  Walking into a £130,000 deficit, as a new headteacher, required things to be tightened up pretty quickly.  This went alongside increasing the funding coming into schools, both capital and recurrent.  I’m fascinated by teaching, assessment and learning, lead quite a lot of in-house and external professional development for people and will happily chat about it until the cows come home.  Over the years I’ve redesigned structures, systems, processes, buildings and governance.  I’m all of the above; maybe you are too.

It’s too easy to end up looking at a model and pigeon holing yourself as a leader.  Alternatively, you can decide to ignore the model as it applies to turning around failing schools/academies and that’s not where you are (or where you are yet).   Like all models and theories I tend not to view them as right or wrong.  I go more for a useful or not so useful view of the World of models and theories.  This one is useful to hold up as a mirror and view your actions against.

Take a step back and consider what your everyday actions are building towards particularly from a cultural perspective.  Do you love the ones you’ve got both pupils and staff.  Keeping pupil numbers high, by limiting exclusions, isn’t primarily a financial imperative it’s an ethical one rooted in a humane organisational culture.  Similarly with how you treat staff.  I haven’t managed to keep everyone over the past twenty one years, perfection is best left to God, but the loses have been few.

Building a culture and climate in which people can thrive and flourish may require you to think philosophically whilst working like a soldier.  Accounting for and managing scarce resources/public money is part of the job as is acting with surgical precision on occasion.

Thanks to Dr Ben Laker for taking the time to read the post

Thanks to Dr Ben Laker for taking the time to read the post

My big takeaway from this study is “where are my every day actions taking the organisations I have a responsibility for leading?”  Are we headed in the right direction for years ahead?  The best leaders are in it for the long haul.  The very long haul.





2 thoughts on “Surgeon or Architect: Do You Need a Career Change?

  1. Not sure there is one successful style. Have recently helped take two academies out of special measures in just two terms and, for me, there are four distinct steps – vision, accountant to ensure financial stability, surgeon if necessary and architect to build for the future

    Posted by Iain Hall | October 23, 2016, 2:54 pm


  1. Pingback: How To Transform a School for Good | @LeadingLearner - September 20, 2017

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