Leader of Learning or a Manager of Grunt work

Following a conversation with a colleague this week I was challenged to think about the difference between being a leader and a manager.

Within education we use the word ‘leader’ a lot. The current job I started was called ‘Head of Faculty’, but as times have changed I am now a ‘Leader of Learning’. I think many schools see it is a competition to have as many ‘Leaders of (insert your fancy title)’ in their school. By the way, rumours that my job as TIC (Teacher in Charge) of cricket is going to be renamed ‘Leader of Green Fields and Long Days in the Sun’ is true. I am ust waiting for it to be ratified by the Board of Trustees.

From a personal point of view I suppose there are two key questions I keep coming back to – Am I more of a manager or am I a leader? and Can you be a leader while in “Middle Management”? Today I would like to reflect on the first of these.

Am I a manager or a leader?

Forbes magazine highlights 9 differences between a leader and a manager. All rather standard and a little mundane but some good points to be reminded of.

1. Leaders create a vision, managers create goals.
2. Leaders are change agents, managers maintain the status quo.
3. Leaders are unique, managers copy.
4. Leaders take risks, managers control risk .
5. Leaders are in it for the long haul, managers think short-term.
6. Leaders grow personally, managers rely on existing, proven skills.
7. Leaders build relationships, managers build systems and processes.
8. Leaders coach, managers direct.
9. Leaders create fans, managers have employees.

For me there are two main differences between being a leader and a manager – especially in an education setting.
Firstly, leaders have people follow them while managers have people who work for them. At the heart of it, leaders have the ability to cast a vision or initiate an idea. My test to see if someone is a leader would be if that person moved schools would you be tempted to follow them if the opportunity arose? Answer with a yes and that person is more than likely a really good leader (or their chocolate brownie is to die for).
Secondly, because leaders provide vision and are able to initiate change it sets them apart from managers. Managers are there to complete day to day grunt work of an organisation. My test to see how much of a manager you are is to take three weeks off school. If your school had to provide a replacement for the school to function (i.e someone came in to do your job), and you came back to a truckload of tasks to catch up on, it is those parts of your job you are a manager of.

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