As I round the corner into the cathedral grounds at ten to 12 it’s obvious that something significant is scheduled. Outside, men in dark suits stand talking in groups, shepherded by officials. From College Street a stream of people flows towards the cathedral, many dressed in green and gold blazers, drawn as iron filings to a magnet. The magnet is Larry Montagu.
I was around when Ofsted was invented. As part of the training, we had a presentation from a head who had undergone a trial Ofsted. ‘Trial’ was an accurate description of his experience. It sounded terrible. ‘Do I really want to be part of this?’ I asked myself. In the end, I decided perhaps I might manage it with some humanity and compassion – which seemed to be missing from the account we heard. In those days schools got months of notice, which led to considerable energy being expended to get all their paperwork in order – and led to a wonderful comment by a headteacher prepared to take control of the situation: ‘We will put on our best coat for Ofsted; we are not buying a new one’. It may sound like a cliche, but it really was a huge privilege to be allowed into schools and celebrate the good work that was going on – and highlight where it wasn’t. I worked with some dedicated colleagues who were determined to do their best for the school.
‘Bother’, I thought; ‘I can’t see how to open this to check the fuse.’ The 4-way adapter had died. The on-light was not illuminated, so I wanted to open it and check the internal fuse. No time at the moment. I left it 2 days. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t mend itself. ‘ A trip to Argos’, then, I thought, mildly irritated. Then, ‘Hang on’, I said to myself; ‘what about changing the fuse in the plug?’ Hey presto! It worked and I have to confess I felt rather smug at having saved myself time and money by replacing the fuse in the plug (time 2 seconds; money: approx. 10p) rather than walking (happily, I can) to Argos (time 15 minutes; money about £15.00).
That got me thinking. How often do we as leaders miss the obvious cost-effective solution? This week I’ve been looking again at my research on emotional resilience for school leadership. Why emotional resilience? Because managing our emotions is ultimately what allows us to continue without being overwhelmed.
It’s almost impossible not to be aware of the questions being asked by the media at the moment concerning the behaviour of Jimmy Savile. We wonder why those in a position to do so didn’t challenge him. I am reminded again of the issue of the interaction of power and responsibility. There are many manifestations of power: it may come from celebrity status; physical strength; force of personality; authority associated with leadership. Power is a gift from those who accord it to us; we should use it wisely and judiciously for their benefit.