The "Special Ones"

They are the,"turn round " kings. They can straddle two LA 's, they can manage two large schools at the same time, they can transform your failing hospital trust, they can restore the reputation of your children's services  and they can get your adult care services out of special measures. They are the "special ones". 

So when the magic doesn't work, the  turn round fails to happen, the results don't improve and any initial improvement is not maintained what then? How does the special one explain this?  

" I was too good, I raised people's game, I made them better than they were but they couldn't maintain this standard or meet my expectations". 

In other words it's not their fault the teachers, nurses, social workers were just not good enough. 

They are "special" because of their very impressive track record of success in improving performance, meeting and even surpassing the ambitions of the board. However they never stay long a " special one " is always in demand so after a couple of years they move on, their reputation enhanced, to bigger and better things. They leave behind an organisation that has fought its way out of special measures and restored it reputation but at the cost of a physically,emotionally and mentally exhausted staff group. Short term dramatic improvement has been achieved but the transformation is not embedded, all the effort being directed at having an immediate impact, building for the future was neglected, the charismatic leader departs and the organisation soon reverts to past behaviour with predictable results. Real change, lasting change    doesn't happen over night, changing the way people think, developing relationships, establishing  a set of values is an evolutionary process, needs a different type of leadership. 

The emphases on league tables, on a narrow range of easily measurable targets and quick wins encourages the cult of the super head the "special one" , of passing exams rather than educating pupils, of speeding up throughput at the expense of patient care and safety, of completing assessments but not promoting independence or improving quality of life.
We don't need "special ones" we need a long term investment in staff not short term exploitation.

Blair McPherson former director, author and blogger

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