Charisma Is Not Leadership

For today, here’s a short video perspective from the great Jim Collins (Good to Great)

Charisma doesn't equal leadership. Rather, humility and commitment to something bigger than self mark out the greatest leaders. 'Burning compulsive ambition,' in Collins' words translated in to decisions and action.

The Ref Needs (To Lose The Bias) Glasses!

Well, who’d have thought it?

BPS Research Digest – How The Home Crowd Affects Football Referees’ Decisions

As rational people, professionals choose to believe that they’re perfectly capable of being impartial, not being swayed or influenced by partisan perspectives. And yet, there’s something about the research findings shared in this article that feel absolutely predictable to anyone who is a regular sports spectator.

So, the next time you hear a sportsman or coach sending out a message to the home crowd to turn out and ‘be the extra man’, you’ll know to take it seriously.

One of my hopes is that research like this will lead to further study of influence and susceptibility which can prove very useful for teachers who have to be as impartial as possible between large groups of students.

Unspontaneous Spontaneity

Throughout the open plan workspace you could hear a pin drop. Every head was bowed studiously over their desks, the only sounds the clacking of keyboards, phone calls or the shuffling of papers. As the clock clicked on to the hour a bell sounded. At that moment, all the workers simultaneously stood up from their desks and rushed to move around.

Some crowded in to the pantry, all trying to get themselves a beverage in a big rush. Others stood around in clusters, sharing a joke, chatting in hurried voices. A few went outside and ran around a bit. All too soon, the electronic buzz of the bell sounded again. Every conversation stopped, the pantry emptied with many left disappointed that they never got the drink they had been looking for. Those outside quickly rushed back in and sat down at their desks, a bit hot, sweaty and out of breath. All the heads bow down and immediately get back to work under the domineering scrutiny of the supervisor.

Sounds like a scene from 1984, or Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World? Or, just another day of unnatural experiences for children in schools? We’ve become so habituated to the ritualised habits of our schools that sometimes it’s considered radical when someone changes even the smallest factor. This was my first thought when I read the following article:

KQED News – Mindshift – More Playtime

The radical idea here is schools moving from one daily recess/ playtime period of 20 minutes to four 15 minute periods and the positive benefits for the children in terms of better concentration, focus and academic progress.

Well, the first thing is I’m completely unsurprised by the positive benefits. here has been so much work and research that has shown positive benefits of physical movement for concentration in schools with positive benefits on behaviour and all sorts of other issues. I recall reading some time ago of Japanese schools that basically took a short recess after every class!

However, my stronger thought is whether this is still a change that stays too rigidly within dogmatic adherence to practices that are a poor reflection of the real world that our children will grow into. As adults, we break off from our work when we need to, when it helps our concentration, fits with the natural flow of the work and is consistent with deadlines and the volume of work we need to get done. So far, during the writing of this article, I’ve got up from my seat and gone off to do other things twice – once to get a cup of coffee. There was also one other stop when i didn’t leave the chair, but checked a mail that came through that I had been waiting for.

Yet, I believe if we had learned these habits constructively as children in school, we could be evn better at them. There are times when we ought to take breaks but don’t. We feel that becaue there’s a deadline on our work and we need to get through a certain volume we will be guilty of slacking if we get up and walk away. however, all too often, that brief trip away from the work would lead to more (not less) work and of a better, ore creative and mentally effective quality.

What if we taught children in school to take breaks in their work in more natural and effective ways? What if we changed the whole relationship with time by breaking down the ‘batch processing, factory model’? Courageous educators need to be ready to re-explore our relationship with time and control in schools.

Right, time to end this piece of work. I’m off to do something physical, responding to the messages of my body.

Being An Original

I mentioned a few weeks ago in a blog entry that Adam Grant’s new book ‘Originals’ was high up on my reading list. Well, in the last few days his TED presentation on the topic came out – and it’s increased my enthusiasm for reading the book.

In it he shares some great research based findings on what marks out the most original and creative people. He shares some refreshing and interesting ideas on the value (within reason) of procrastination and the willingness to fail many times in order to get great ideas.

I believe his ideas merit particular attention and study by educators for the implications in terms of how we teach children, how they spend their time in school. Especially, we need to take a cold hard look at the issue of failure, seeing as most children see avoiding failures as one of their most vital and important tasks in school.

How To Hire The Best – Not !

The Cooper Review – Google, Amazon and Facebook’s Secrets To Hiring The Best People

It’s not April 1st any more and I have no wish to cause anyone to lose their job (as Google apparently managed to do yesterday with their April Fool’s Day ‘Drop the mic’ trick) However, I couldn’t resist sharing this tongue in cheek and very funny article that purports to set out 10 ways in which the cream of the hi tech companies recruit the best talent.

These are really funny because they use exactly the kind of language so beloved of HR people, but also because they’re almost plausible. Worse, can say with hand on heart that I’ve experienced a few of these personally (of course, I promise, only from the candidate side and never as the interviewer!)

Some of them have a general theme of disturbing the equilibrium of the candidate to see how they will react. I had a very mememorable experience of this when looking for a job after my graduation in the mid-80’s (yes, I’m really that old). Firstly, I was called to attend the interview at 5.00pm. As I arrived the receptionist was packing to leave the office at the end of the day. The place was in an out of the way place and it was quite challenging to get there. I didn’t have a car. Then, I was basically left sitting in a corridor with dim lighting and nobody around until nearly 6.30 – no refreshments, no nothing. Then, I was called in to an office where two men sat. For an hour and a half they played ‘good cop/ bad cop’. The most memorable exchange was with bad cop:

Bad cop: What newspaper do you read?

Me: The Times (sensible answer – safe, not tabloid or controversial)

Bad cop: So, you don’t read The Telegraph?

Me: Very rarely.

Bad cop: Well, how on earth do you expect to get a decent job i you don’t read The Telegraph?

Me: ……………………………..

When they had finished having their fun with this fresh faced naive student, they unlocked a door, let me out and I found myself in the middle of an industrial estate, in a place I’d never been before, after 8.00pm. I probably walked a good 3 miles before I found a bus. I think i got home around 10.30pm

They never offered me the job. Which was a shame, because I really wanted to reject it with full gusto!

The Leader as Coach

Sadly, last week saw the death of one of football's great exponents who then went on to have an illustrious career as a soccer coach - Johan Cruyff.

This is a nice little video (only about 3 1/2 minutes long) in which he shares his perspectives and thoughts on leadership and particularly coaching. He emphasises working to maximise on the strengths of individuals and teams, whilst not ignoring the weaknesses.

He makes a very valid point about leaders' need to introspect, to know themselves and to lead themselves, before they can lead and coach others.

Discipline and Punishment

There are certain beliefs that are so ingrained in our society that few ever question them. One is that adults, being bigger and older, have the right to ‘control’ children. In times gone by this came through sayings like – ‘children should be seen and not heard’. It’s in the nature of power that those with it control and dictate compliance to those who have none or less of it.

Next – through sayings like ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ we see the workings of the belief that the ‘discipline’ required in a child will only come about through control, coercion and even ultimately the use of punishment – whether that be physical or mental. In this day and age it is, to my mind, rather extraordinary that there are states in the US where the right to physically chastise/ punish/ assault (!) children is still given to teachers in schools. I believe the more enlightened places are the European countries where it’s made very clear that physical punishment of a child by anyone (including parents) is illegal.

There are all sorts of reasons why use of physical force against children should no longer be accepted in society. These include the fact that brutalized children are more likely to be violent to their peers, such use of violence is more about lack of anger control on the part of the adult than punishing the child. But, the biggest reason is that all the evidence tells us very strongly that it just plain doesn’t work. Where it may produce ‘acceptable behaviour’ as compliance, all evidence suggests that when the fear of the punishment isn’t there the behaviour is no more likely to be replicated.

I’m well aware that there are cultural elements to the attitudes on this, but what we have to understand is that as more evidence is built about psychology, and especially child psychology, the more willing people must be to challenge cultural orthodoxies. There are cultures within which the belief is that whether children or adults people need to be pressured to do right and that positive behaviour only happens in the face of potential punishment. These are the people who applaud the rigid and forceful laws and policing in places like Singapore. I personally subscribe to a belief that with the right moral compass and positive habits people will do right because it is right without the need for fear or coercion.

Discipline is a big issue in schools. Where there is weak discipline too many children are acting in ways that can prevent others from having a fair opportunity to learn as they want and need. In the worst cases it can make school a dangerous place when poor discipline manifests in peer to peer violence or bullying. Many seek to maintain discipline through fear of punishments, through control and also by organising learning activities in such a way that students are regimented, docile and passive – making it easier to control discipline. However, we know that this is not the best way to learn. We also know that it doesn’t lead to the best learning of self discipline, but instead can lead to a sullen, pseudo-compliance and fake obedience – we do what you demand while you’re watching us, but you can’t be watching us all the time.

Here are two interesting articles. Whilst both are written from the perspective of parents and discipline in the home, there’s much that is relevant for teachers and schools when thinking about how to maintain positive, healthy climates around discipline. The first comes from a parenting website, the second from The Atlantic.

Creative Child – The Messages Behind Discipline

The Atlantic – No Spanking, No Time Outs, No Problems

The common message coming through both articles is accentuating and praising the behaviour we want to see, rather than seeking to punish the behaviour we don’t want. Ultimately, I believe that we have to have both a short and long term perspective. When there is behaviour that is inappropriate, it needs to be dealt with/ redirected in the short term. However, we also need to have in mind the far more significant long term desire to have our children grow up to be self-directed and self disciplined – in other words, to do right and to behave in ways that are fair, reasonable and in both their own and others’ best interests by choice and free will – not because of bullying conditioning, fear or punishment.

The latter article is not only interesting in its own right. It’s a measure of how emotive these issues are and how much emotional baggage is attached related to people’s own childhood and upbringing that the comments section has so many responses and many of them express strong emotions. This is even the case from grown adults who were victims of cruel and bullying punishment and discipline as children. Their emotions are clear from their comments and some clearly have carried scars and mental harm long in to adulthood.

Whether we are parents or educators responsibility for a child is a massive and weighty responsibility that we must take very seriously. Our words and actions towards the child will have a significant impact on the adult they will be later. In these circumstances, we must always be reflective, candid and careful to make ourselves well informed, to hold ourselves accountable and to take our duty very seriously. We’re not perfect. We will have days we get it right and days we make mistakes. However, our children deserve that we are always striving to be better, to guide them better to the right behaviours in ways that nourish, enrich and equip them. And, as I’ve said on many occasions the least starting point is – do no harm.

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