I spent today at the AHDS (Assocation of Headteachers and Deputes Scotland) Conference where I led a couple of workshops about the Seven Sides of Educational Leadership.
I’ll posts a series of short posts about elements of the conference and I’ll kick off with something which Jim Reid (one of the founders of Wolfson Electronics) said about leadership in the commercial world. Jim believes that one of the key characteristics of good leadership is competition. He related this to knowing where the competition was and benchmarking his practice against others. Jim also stressed the importance of us being competitors in a global environment and the fact we need to take account of what our “competitors” are doing in relation to their education systems.
I couldn’t help feeling a sense growing unease from the audience as he explored this idea. Competition is not something which people in education are comfortable with – “we don’t do it to be better than other people”.
Yet I understood what he was getting at – if we want to be good (or “excellent” in education) then we must refer to how others do. As much as we might like to disagree, quality is not criterion referenced – what was excellent ten years ago would not be excellent now – our competitors have moved on – we do get measured against others , i.e. norm referenced.
Perhaps if we were really honest with ourselves we might admit to some competitive instinct – albeit only in whispers, and then again only in an empty room.