Extreme Metal Leadership – a radical way forward? *Warning contains swearing

“Extreme metal is a loosely defined umbrella term for a number of related heavy metal music sub genres that have developed since the early 1980s. The term usually refers to a more abrasive, harsher, underground, non-commercialized style or sound nearly always associated with genres like thrash metal, black metal, death metal, doom metal and sometimes speed metal.” Wikipedia.

A more abrasive, harsher, underground, non-commercialized style

That sounds kind of exciting, doesn’t it? How can senior leadership be like this? Surely with Local Authorities, Ofsted and DfE producing guidance, documentation and legislation quicker than school communications can come through, and certainly quicker than senior leadership can read, act or forward them, then a more non-commercialised form of leadership would be welcome?

How can this happen? I don’t think this blog post will provide answers. Maybe just suggestions. Is it okay to throw caution to the wind at times and just suggest some crazy shit?

More abrasive
Abrasive, by definition, means coarse and rough. Leadership within an educational setting requires you to polish these skills, to make the ‘abrasive’ messages you need to deliver smoother so they don’t rough people up. But a few grazes never did us any harm as children when we fell off our skateboards. So why do we feel the need to sand everything down and make things smoother and easier for others? Surely by being abrasive we would see teacher’s true mettle, what really lies under their skin. There is nowhere to hide when blood is pouring out the gash in your knee and someone picks the gravel out the wound. Why do we protect adults in the workplace from this?

Tell people to just fuck off. So many people who don’t work in schools offer this as an acceptable way of dealing with people who are being difficult, burdensome, or obtrusive. It is generally frowned upon in schools, understandably the language around children is inappropriate, but the sentiment sticks. Why not tell people to fuck off? If they are wasting your time then tell them to fuck off. If they are asking stupid questions that you have already answered, tell them to fuck off. If they are teaching you to suck eggs, tell them to fuck off. It’s quite a simple tool really, although probably best if substituted for school-friendly language. Alternatively, decide what is really important and use a scale such as the following, which may be adapted according to your own pedagogy, beliefs or preferences:

Will it impact the social or emotional well being of the children in my school?
Will it impact academic progress?
Will it improve teaching?
Will it help teachers in a positive way?
Is it worth the money required?

The closer you get to the bottom, the louder the ‘FUCK OFF’.

This part suggests that the music is far away from mainstream ideas and trends, perhaps so extreme in its ideals, language, content, that it is shunned by conventional life. Is this a combination of the two previous approaches? Perhaps. But how far from the mainstream are we, as leaders, prepared to go? Are we prepared to lead a school in a way so different to ‘conventional life’, and whose ‘conventional life’ are we measuring this by? The same one as Mr Gove? But what if our leadership could be something entirely new, something entirely novel and ground breaking? The magnitude of impact we could have on our schools could be vast as we follow our own path, not just through, but perhaps underneath the murky waters of educational policy and the well trodden path of education practice.

This would be amazing. None of those persistent fliers in the pigeon hole, in the email inbox, on the desk about the next fantastic course available, or key note speaker, or research, or lecture, or workshop. It’s always the same turd polished in a different way. The messages are always the same, but someone else has dressed it up and produced shiny resources to sell it. It’s still crap. And if it’s not crap then it’s not new. Non commercialised leadership would be organic. It would come from in house beliefs, pedagogy and vision and it would always, always, keep the children in that school and community at it’s centre. How can one person provide resources and courses that are going to help every child in the country? No contextualisation there at all. Bollocks and commercialised.

A more abrasive, harsher, underground, non-commercialized style
So, as promised, no answers here. But maybe, just maybe, an essence of how leadership could be. As leaders we know we have to be brave, only making safe decisions doesn’t help anyone, but how extreme do we let ourselves get? And actually, by not being more abrasive, harsher, underground and non-commercialised, are we really modelling the learning characteristics we want to see in our learners and our staff, and perhaps more importantly, are we modelling the way to be brave, bold and how to be a true leader?

So perhaps I’ll leave it with you – how could you realistically try to demonstrate a more abrasive, harsher, underground, non-commercialized style within your own practice, and how can you deliver this alongside what you already do? Tell people the cold, hard truth more often, but then know that you have put the proper support in place following that conversation? Have a list of priorities and make sure you stick to it? Take what is truly necessary, or you fully believe in from policy and bend the rules, go underground, with the rest? Seek out the support, CPD and advice you know your school really needs, and encourage staff and subject coordinators to do the same, and not be dazzled by the latest trend or resource. Either way, dynamic, heavy metal leadership will forge its own path to ensure the best for everyone in its school.

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