By Dr Morris Charlton, Voice Regional Officer (personal view)
This is a book that has already been reviewed by the great and the good – they give it many accolades – so I wonder if I can add anything useful…
The book covers a period when I had just left a school where I had been headteacher for 20 years to take on another school in special measures. Whilst a head in East Anglia, I had been seconded to and/or mentored nine schools that were encountering severe difficulties. Challenging circumstances were nothing new to me, nor was focused leadership. I had been to the National College, prior to when Steve Munby worked there, but found it seemed to have a single driver; that wasn’t my style. It was interesting that Steve Munby had a similar perspective when he arrived there.
For an entire year I worked at my new school, taking it out of special measures, and was then seconded to another provision in difficulties. This was nose to the grindstone time, with little time for anything else. When I returned from secondment, my own service was undergoing a restructure that could have resulted in my school closing. I didn’t have time to visit the National College at the time – having read Steve’s book, I regret this now as I feel it could have been very supportive with such a leader. I also regret that I never had the ‘how are you doing?’ phone calls that he refers to in the book.
The book is based on a series of annual lectures – the Seizing success and inspiring leadership lectures – to heads and senior managers, given by Steve at the National College. Each is bookended by commentary with the wisdom and analysis of hindsight – for example:
Lecture One – Enthusiastic and Invitational Leadership
Lecture Two – Authentic Systems Leadership
Lecture Three – Imperfect and Courageous Leadership
Lecture Four – Lateral and Sustainable Leadership.
As soon as I started reading the book, I wanted to read the final chapter – I advise you to wait until you reach it by reading the book – it does not disappoint!
I was keen to read the book as I have just completed a series of lectures around the country on leadership and wanted to see how or if our views were coincident. I kept the book until what are loosely called the ‘summer holidays’ – to give some time for what I thought might be a tome – it’s very readable – and read it three times – there is a lot to consider. The commentaries give a good historical perspective and analysis but may not be so meaningful if you have not lived or managed through it. The book deals with weighty issues but is accessible and not written in an overly erudite way – it reads along with pace.
How would I use it? I think the annual lectures raise issues that could be discussed at all levels in all schools – a valuable part of reflection. It could also be worked into small and large business practices.
It is one of the few books where the hardback cover is a study or seminar in itself!
I think it should be recommended reading for heads and governors and should be included as a reader in governor training as well as SMT Inset.
About the reviewer
Dr Morris Charlton is Regional Officer for Yorkshire and Humberside, an ex-military officer and a retired head after 30 years.