Tactics – the forgotten element of leadership

“If a goal requires a strategy, and a strategy requires tactics, then knowing which tactics to select lie at the heart of effective leadership.”

Listen to any conversation or presentation relating to educational leadership and you won’t have to wait long until a magical word is intoned and others sagely nod in agreement. That word, of course, is strategy.

Yet listen out for a reference to tactics and you’ll have a long wait.

As I reflect on the best educational leaders I’ve worked with and for, the most distinguishing factor in their success was that they could work out how to translate a goal into a reality. The reason they were successful was that they had learned – through experience – to select the most effective actions which will overcome the obstacles to achievement.

Such tactical thinking differs significantly from the accepted critical path analysis concept of project management – which tends to see achievement of a goal to be a linear deployment of a series of steps, often exemplified by comparing with how we go about making a cup of coffee.

The reality is that successful change needs a much more sophisticated application of inter-connected tactical actions.