The Good, The Bad and The Ugly...

The Half Term Break offered a breathing space; an opportunity to reflect on leadership.

The good, the bad and the ugly.

Enough has probably already been made of Sepp Blatter and the FIFA fiasco in the media over the last few days. I'll therefore try my best to be brief. Two features of the affair stand out for me. First, that your actions as a leader have to be determined by core values. More on that in a moment. And second that, however large and amorphous the organisation you claim to lead, the buck stops with you.

Sepp Blatter

The President of FIFA's apparent amnesia when it came to an understanding of the concept of accountability offered a stark contrast to that of school leaders as it emerged from the Queen's Speech on Tuesday.

Because, despite it being half term, educational leadership also made the headlines last week. The Prime Minister and Secretary of State, Nicky Morgan, launched a 'war on mediocrity', vowing to replace the governance and senior management of as yet undefined 'coasting schools' with an as yet equally unidentified cadre of super leaders. The historian in me can't help a momentarily ironic diversion.

This is Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool.

Robert Jenkinson 2nd Earl of Liverpool

One of Liverpool's rivals for the leadership of the early nineteenth-century Conservative Party, once despairingly described him as 'the arch-mediocrity'. He went on to become Britain's longest ever serving Prime Minister from 1812-27, reconciling warring 'Reactionary' and 'Liberal' factions within his Party during a period of domestic crisis and international upheaval. Today, he might be described as a consummate consensus builder so, if 'mediocrity' in that leadership context was was good enough for him...

I also really enjoyed the cricket over Half Term. What a great Test Match! Reminded me of the days of Botham's game-changing heroics in the early '80s. Hang on in there, there is a relevant link coming...

If Blatter represented the bad and ugly of sporting leadership over the last week, Alistair Cook perhaps offered us a glimpse of the good.

Alistair Cook

On Saturday he became England's highest ever run-scorer, in his 114th Test Match and 33rd as captain. The opening batsman. Literally leading from the front.

Cook has had more than his fair share of detractors during his time as captain.


Resilience is a quality of any great leader, in any context. Criticism comes with the territory. As do moments of introspection and reflection. So I raise my proverbial bat to Cook for coming through it stronger. We all need a bit of the Cook in us.

For me, on particular reflection on Cricket captaincy has offered one of the best insights into wider leadership issues and styles; better indeed than many a treatise on management theory. Mike Brearley's 'The Art of Captaincy'. The clue is in the title. Leadership's not a science.

The Art of Captaincy Mike Brearley Book Cover

Brearley's batting average of just over 22 was 20 to 30 runs short of other international opening batsman. Alistair Cook's, by the way is 46.85. Yet he was selected automatically on the basis of his leadership qualities and man management skills, which resulted in a best ever 18:4 captaincy win: loss record.

Why? Quite simply, because he understood people. He understood the motivation of the individuals that make up the team, and how to get the best out of them for collective benefit. Perhaps most famously that included the idiosyncratic, headstrong and otherwise easily self-destructive talent of Ian Botham during the Ashes Series of 1981...

One of England's opponents from that Series, the Australian fast bowler Rodney Hogg, famously said that Brearley's success as a leader was due to the fact that 'he had a degree in people'. He actually wasn't far off. Brearley had a First Class Degree in from Cambridge in moral and Social Sciences and has gone onto enjoy a highly successful post-cricket career as a leading Psychoanalyst! He certainly understood and valued his people.

So, where have these half term musings led me. I think they've confirmed a long-held belief that successful practice is based on VIP.


And the relationship between them.

Values have to come first. They the baseline to which you must always return when really tough decisions need to be made, or unforeseen events can momentarily throw you off your strategic course. Without them, and alignment of all in the organisation to them, having great systems - infrastructure - and talented people won't deliver alone. That's why I so enjoy the art of being the Captain of Team Park House! Ofsted got it right when they described us being 'values-driven'. It can't be any other way.

So, when it comes leadership, maybe it isn't always Blatter the devil you know... And sometimes too many Cooks don't spoil a decent broth!