So we’re all back at school. How was it for you? Is it still okay, or is it still filling you with horror? Starting the new school year is a bit like releasing a new album, you have messages for people to hear, catchy choruses for people to sing along to and your own pig squeals to deliver hard messages.
So what if you started at a new school? This could be compared to releasing a debut album. Have you brought a fresh new sound to the school, like Slipknot bursting onto the Nu Metal scene in 1999, screaming at us as they inhaled dead birds in jars, set each other on fire and fought onstage? Or Kiss in the 70s, launching their new, raw, melodic sound and bringing face paint to the masses? Are you radical in your views? Or just different?
Perhaps your reputation preceded you. You may have worked in a local school before, been internally promoted or were previously well known to the area. So how do ‘launch’ yourself? Do you hold tight to the same vision you had before? Or do you step out with a new vision, a new set of values and a new sound? Much like an age old favourite forming a new band, finding new band mates and re launching themselves, like Max Cavelera starting Soulfly after his departure from Sepultura and Ozzy Osbourne leaving Black Sabbath in 1979 to pursue his solo career, you have to decide which direction your new career will follow.
And so you need to question yourself. Do you maintain the same messages you’ve always given – the same sound? Or do you reinvent yourself and go off in a new musical direction? Perhaps it’s your first senior leadership position, if this is your first headship then it’s your opportunity to step out of the shadows and demonstrate your own vision, your own leadership style, your own musical direction. Maybe you will find your musical style still influenced by those around you, maybe you’re the new lead singer in a well established band, like the unknown Ian Gillan stepping into Deep Purple and finding his fame there.
But what if it’s a failure? What if, like Peter Criss, you choose to take the bold leap out of the shadows from behind a drum kit and step into the limelight and only your die hard fans follow? What if, as the new lead singer you bring a new style, a new way of doing things, which isn’t well received? Like Blaze Bayley bringing a new sound to Iron Maiden, you could find the school viewed less favourably, solely down to your voice. How do you react and deal then?
Perhaps you are returning to a post you have only been in for a year. A bit like a second album. How do you develop? Should you change? Did you make your vision, values and messages really clear last year? Did people hear your true ‘sound’? Maybe you exploded last year onto the scene with a winning message, winning fans and admirers along the way, but did they just sing along to the catchy chorus and ignore the pig squeals? Are they going to listen again this year or did they just cling to the catchy, new and exciting thing and now your same choruses fall on deaf ears?
All bands hope they’re not just ‘one hit wonders’, that they are not just a novelty that people will love for the moment, such as Steelheart with ‘I’ll never let you go’, or Jackyl with ‘The Lumberjack’ (who could forget the chainsaw solo?), and then fade into obscurity. So how can you ensure you don’t become that one hit wonder? What is it that gives a heavy metal band longevity? What attracts hoards of loyal fans? And is there a difference? Which would you prefer: loyalty or genuine excitement about your ideas, vision and values? Fans singing the old songs they love? Or people singing in harmony with you? Should you ‘tweak’ the sound, add some new dimensions? Rejig the leadership structure? Rewrite the behaviour policy? Increase expectations of teachers? Set more challenging targets?
What if you decide to change your sound altogether? Maybe you played it safe last year, singing similar songs as the previous leadership before you sang, following their pattern and keeping the same underlying chord structures. Is it possible that you’re now ready to break out and create your own music? You have your own messages, your own vision and your own values, and now you want to deliver them in your own way? Risky. You will definitely lose followers, like In This Moment as front woman Maria Brink showed us, but there is always the possibility you will gain more. And isn’t it worth it to be true to yourself? What if you know your songs aren’t right for the school?
So you’ve been at your school for more than a couple of years? Is it your fourth, or fifth ‘album’? Does this year bring your ‘Greatest Hits’ album? Regurgitating the same messages and songs that have been doing the rounds for years. Yes, everyone loves the songs, or at least they loved the songs. When listening to a greatest hits album are you really passionate about the songs? Or were you once passionate? Is there a fondness for the songs that brings back memories? Be honest, they’re not necessarily the songs that you want to be hearing day after day anymore, you’ve been there and done that. The buzz has been lost. So is it okay for a senior leader to have no new songs? For them to churn out the same messages they have always given, the same strategies and the same steps to reach the vision, things being taken for granted? Yes, new staff, like new fans who buy the greatest hits albums to find out about the band and music, will love the songs as they are hearing them for the very first time, they are fresh and new to their ears, but rarely does a greatest hits album become a staple of a music collection.
So what do you do? Totally reinvent yourself and go off in a new direction? That could be perilous. What if people hate it? And when you’ve done the same thing for so long, it is even more noticeable. You hardly want to make the same mistake as Korn with ‘The Path of Totality’, trying to merge with a different style that just doesn’t complement who you are and where you’ve come from – heavy metal and dub step are never going to mix well.
But not everyone wants to move on. Maybe it’s the subtle shift over time, like Metallica who have successfully changed their sound, as ‘St Anger’ saw the loss of the metallic snare and the guitar solos, met with some criticism, but in no way reduced their impact on the heavy metal scene or lost them any significant numbers of followers. Or maybe it’s like Axl Rose and Guns n Roses, where band mates, or staff, may come and go, subtly changing the messages and sounds, but the lead singer remains constant despite the changes and continues to hold tight to their vision, to no detriment to the music or the success.
Whatever ‘album’ you’re releasing this year, you’ve had a few weeks to settle in, get a feel and decide on your ‘sound’. So how are you going to launch your new album to the masses? No matter what, don’t forget to rock out!