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MLS _JOURNAL ENTRY 1( 24 July) 2014


Management and Leadership
To me, 'management' and 'leadership' are two different things. They can somehow be
described by the saying made popular by the movie, Forest Gump, " goes (sic) together
like peas and carrots". They are almost always found together (like in a bag of frozen
vegetables) but are fundamentally different in many ways (shape, colour, taste). As I
reflect upon Dr Ng’s lecture, I recall this statement vividly: “Understanding from the top
and managing the system on the ground”. This statement succinctly defines what
management and leadership means to me. I hope I am able to explain its true intent and
meaning. What is management and leadership? I believe a leader is one who understands
the vision, the ethos, the processes of the organization and takes the lead by leading by
example so as to inspire his members to follow suit. He manages the team to work
effectively together by means of fostering positive work relationships, minimizing conflicts
and expecting excellence in all areas of work through giving feedback and collaborative
goal setting. In this reflection, I will discuss management first then followed by leadership. I
will keep my views on these with my department as a context.

The term ' management' can mean many things in different contexts. On a personal level
(for example as a wife and mother to 2 boys), I need to manage time, home finances and
relationships with my husband and children. At the workplace (as a co-worker), I need to
manage work deadlines (e.g. setting of test papers and resources), budgets and
relationships with my principal and fellow Heads of Department (HODs). At the
department level (as a department head), I need to manage department result
targets, department budgets and relationships with my department members. There can
be many areas of management in a department that needs looking into and monitoring
into, but I will only broadly discuss the follow three: community, conflict and conduct.
Coincidently, they all begin with the letter 'C', so I will term them the 3Cs.

The first 'C' is community. By this I mean the management of department and how it
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functions as an entity. This could include the fostering of inter-personal relationships,
providing opportunities for open dialogue, building up a platform for understanding to help
one another. This aspect of management is vital for without it, there is simply no
collaboration or cooperation to speak of. I think it is essential that the HOD takes the
initiative to build up a positive community of co-workers and determine the dynamics the
team. This simply cannot be left to chance, but requires effort and expertise of the HOD to
make it work.

The second 'C' is conflict. This includes the management of disagreements between
members or unhappiness with the HOD, dealing with members who are not satisfied in
areas of work delegation or workload. This 'C' has to be managed sensitively and swiftly
for unhappy members can be detrimental to the individual, the department and to the
whole organization. It is is important to clarify whenever a misunderstanding or
unhappiness happens and not sit around or gossip about it as this leads to a lot of issues.

Finally the third 'C', which is conduct. Conduct includes work ethos, competencies, targets,
values and expectations. In the management of members' targets and expectations, the
challenge or the difficulty for the HOD is not only to be able to set high and realistic
expectations for it's members, but also be able to get the buy in and motivate each and
every member that the goals set are achievable with individual and collaborative efforts.
This is only attainable if the HOD provides constant constructive feedback on work
progress and competencies. Only with feedback, will members have a clear and, more
importantly, convinced understanding of their achievements and their limitations. Only then
will true reflection take place and subsequently, improvement to work processes. And then
and only then, will the department be able to work together effectively for the improvement
of the school and the pupils. In managing the work process, the HOD has to also manage
the inter-connectedness of the strengths of every member in the department and in turn
maximizes the collaborative efforts.

As for leadership, I believe that it is three-fold. Firstly, a HOD must overtly express the
vision, ethos and direction of the department to its members. There is no point of vision
and mission statements if they are not made known clearly to the members. I truly agree
with the Dr Ng’s statement in one of his lecture,” that a vision statement should resonate
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with people/staff and should not be words on the wall.” This sets me thinking how many of
my staff in my school believe in the vision of our school and are working towards that
vision or are they just thinking the vision is just words on the wall. A HOD is like the
captain of a ship, without him, a department will be lost at sea. Just like the ship's crew,
members need to know the 'route' and the 'destination' of the journey and as Dr. Ng
pointed out, knowing the current reality and gaps. Only then, will the department be able to
work and move as one.
Secondly, cliché as it sounds; a leader must lead by example and walk the talk. Truly, this
is not just talking through the process but indeed; it is about getting the hands dirty and
doing the work collaboratively. As I moved from my previous school to my current school
Naval Base primary , I had to start from scratch to build bond with the staff in the school,
understand the strength and challenges of my MT department and work with the members
in firming up a a lot of programmes and resources . For all of this, I did not instruct them to
do but I worked with them side by side and together we went through the journey and
process together and it made it more meaningful to me and them. In it is definitely not
about ‘working at the top’ in isolation, but about being able to work together with everyone
and understanding each of their job scopes and work processes. For a leader who 'walks
the talk' is one that can truly establish trust, confidence and conviction within the
Thirdly, I believe as a leader of the department, the HOD is the inspirer, motivator and
supporter all at the same time. The leader inspires by making his members to take on a
task with positive enthusiasm, motivates when the going gets tough and provides
unconditional and much-needed support to sustain and maintain efforts during the long
haul. I think it is somewhat like the coach, cheerleader and the medic of a football team all
rolled into one. This role is crucial. For without it, all efforts will be futile in no time. At times
as HODs we may need that support from our SLs too and I am blessed with SLs and in
particular one of my former school leader Miss Geetha Doraisamy who groomed me as KP
and most importantly taught me how to be a good human being and a leader.
At this point of my learning process towards being a more effective leader, I have to admit
that there is so much to learn. Managing a department is a much faceted process and a
challenging process. There is so much at play all the time. It will require me to be inspiring
and thoughtful in my actions and words, sensitive when handling conflicts and above all,
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caring in all aspects. I truly believe this: that only by being an effective HOD can I to
contribute to my school and in turn, to pupils’ learning. And only then can I touch the lives
of my pupils. And this has always been my driving force. To touch the lives of my pupils
and to always have the pupils in center in focus in whatever we plan and work for. And I
hope that I can achieve that with a better understanding of management and leadership.