Leadership- easier in industry?

Leadership- harder in schools?

So, someone just asked me if being a leader was ‘harder’ in a school than in my previous leadership roles in industry. I guess the easy answer is yes but there are many different strands to the question.

The first issue is defining the term ‘harder’- do they mean more difficult, more challenging, more time consuming? Intellectually harder, or physically or mentally harder?

In retail I had to contend with customers, staff, external agencies, managing budgets and sales targets. In education I have to contend with exactly the same- parents (customers), staff, external agencies, managing budgets and pupil targets. The difference is that there is an emotional aspect to managing all of these in education that just does not exist in some other sectors. Never did I wake up worrying about whether I had made the wrong decision as a leader in industry and it wasn’t because I didn’t care it was simply that a bad decision in retail just meant I had to work harder at meeting my targets whereas a bad decision now can potentially impact on someone’s future.

One of the reasons my role as a school leader is more challenging than my previous role running supermarkets is because there are less constants. Let’s face it, increasing sales of products is infinitely easier than increasing outcomes for pupils! Where retail is market driven and factors such as the weather, inflation and the economy can have an impact, generally once you get a feel for your market and seasonality it is fairly constant for large organisations. Education however is one endless stream of changes and you never get to fully understand your ‘market’ due to its mobility and other factors such as  changes in policy or government.

Leadership in schools is definitely more emotionally challenging for me- this simply stems from the fact that I care and there is so much at stake. I am dealing with and impacting on children’s lives now not just tins of beans and that is sometimes a very sobering thought. Whilst this makes leadership in education more challenging it also makes it more rewarding- I never got the satisfaction from my role in industry that I get now- meeting sales targets and budget forecasts just isn’t the same as seeing a child finally grasp a maths concept or read for the first time!

I know I have just touched the surface of a complex question but for me the answer is yes, leadership in schools is more challenging than my experience of leadership in other sectors but is also more rewarding, more exciting, more interesting and ultimately gives me more job satisfaction.

I can’t think of another role where everyday, regardless of my mood, I am made to laugh out loud by someone under the age of ten!

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