Is it really better to be feared than loved as a headteacher or Ofsted Chief Inspector?

2 Dec

Today's TES reports the farewell speech of Sir Michael Wilshaw as Ark Schools' education director, before he leaves that role and his current headship to become Ofsted's Chief Inspector.

Sir Michael raises a number of interesting ideas, including that "with the impending demise of the GTC (General Teaching Council for England), unions should be increasingly seen as regulators of the profession as voluble on professional standards as on pay and conditions" something they are already doing.

During his speech, Sir Michael read from a critical letter sent to him by an "underperforming teacher during his early years as a head". "The lesson of that," Sir Michael said:

"is that if anyone says to you that 'staff morale is at an all-time low' you will know you are doing something right."

This seems a strange and remarkable thing to say.

NASUWT's General Secretary is reported as saying of Sir Michael that: "Every single word that is leaving his mouth is about denigrating the profession. This is not an auspicious start." Clearly a man who "told his audience that teaching was a 'noble profession' currently enjoying the best new entrants he had seen in his 43 years in the job" is not running down teachers with every word. However, Voice has raised its concerns before about those that believe that teachers should constantly be in fear of their jobs in order to perform well and about the role of the new Chief Inspector.

Sir Michael's comment does sound rather Machiavellian. To quote The Prince:

"Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with."

It is to be hoped that the new Chief Inspector does not take Machiavelli's bleak view of humanity that:

"Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or nobility of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails."

Although perhaps he might subscribe to the notion that:

"a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that, if he does not win love, he avoids hatred; because he can endure very well being feared whilst he is not hated".

As we concluded in a previous post on the HMCI:

"Let us hope that he will not follow previous Chief Inspectors down the route of provocation for publicity, picking a fight with the teaching profession to please the media and HMCI's political masters, or for reasons of self-publicity, but will use his role to be tough but fair, celebrating the positive and highlighting good practice, wherever it is found, as well as giving a guiding hand to those that need it.

"Successful leaders are ultimately those who are respected and admired. An independent Chief Inspector, who can use and speak from his experience as a highly successful teacher, head teacher and educational leader, will gain the respect, admiration and support of fellow professionals."

Do let us know your thoughts on management and leadership styles .

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One Response to “Is it really better to be feared than loved as a headteacher or Ofsted Chief Inspector?”

  1. Joyce Watts 05. Dec, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    One word – RESPECT.

    Earn the respect of staff and students, and anyone else you deal with. The key to running a successful and happy establishment.

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