Global IB exam chief: how jazz provides lessons in management

Receive cost-free Leadership updates We’ll deliver you a myFT Day by day Digest email rounding…

Receive cost-free Leadership updates

Two childhood inspirations have permeated the various occupation and managerial design of Olli-Pekka Heinonen, the someday Finnish politician, policymaker and public formal: education and tunes.

As he plots out approach in his new job as director-typical of the Intercontinental Baccalaureate process initial introduced much more than fifty percent a century back, he is drawing on each these influences. He requires in excess of a sophisticated world wide organisation as it seeks to expand and satisfy the shifting demands of kids and society in an period seriously disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“My father was a instructor and I was born and lived in an apartment in a primary school,” he suggests. “I also studied in the [Turku] Conservatory [of Audio] and for a calendar year was a tunes instructor.” Heinonen, fifty seven, then experienced as a attorney and — at the very least as he describes it — approximately each and every phase in his specialist existence has been guided by requests and nudges from others.

He was asked to turn into a parliamentary adviser, then minister of education at only 29, prior to he experienced been elected an MP. The moment that experienced occurred, he became minister of transportation and telecommunications. From 2002 he expended a ten years running Yleisradio, the Finnish condition broadcaster, but afterwards rejoined federal government as condition secretary to the key minister.

The only position for which he ever applied was his very last publish as director-typical of the Nationwide Company for Training in 2016. That put him in demand of a school process held up as a showpiece all around the entire world, judged by benchmarks these as the OECD’s Programme for Intercontinental University student Assessment, for its belief in balancing robust tutorial achievements with existence outside the house school.

“My philosophy is that you should not location your believe in in setting up factors,” Heinonen, suggests. “There will be surprises and you should just go alongside with what evolves. The only position I have applied for was at the Company. I felt it would be a excellent time to return to the criminal offense scene of the discipline of education.”

He cites as a single of his best achievements the period of time as education minister in the mid to late nineteen nineties, when he granted autonomy to towns, faculties and teachers them selves. He stresses the groundwork experienced been laid in excess of the previous two decades by demanding all teachers to have masters’ degrees. That boosted their competence, embedded a culture of consistent pedagogical investigation and strengthened their substantial status and regard in society.

Vital leadership lessons

  • Grant autonomy — in Heinonen’s situation, he devolved education decisions to towns and teachers them selves

  • Embrace the ‘humble governance’ thought and take that leaders do not have the proper solutions

  • Leadership is not about a single individual, it should be distribute all through a corporate or organisational process

  • Communication to generate believe in with personnel and stakeholders is very important

“My tactic was to consist of every person in the system,” he suggests. Encouraged by his government’s design of “humble governance”, he embraced the thought that “at the top you never have the proper solutions, you have to require persons in co-building them. Leadership is not about a individual, it is a top quality that should be distribute broadly in a process. If you emphasise the job of a single individual, you are failing.”

He suggests he learnt humility, but also the want to connect much more. “I’m not by character anyone who would like to be in the highlight. I’ve realized to do that. We Finns from time to time connect too minimal. We try to be extremely exact and go away other factors out, but speaking to generate believe in is central.

“In the starting, I experienced the thought that staying in a leadership position meant you should glimpse, converse and dress to glimpse like a leader,” he suggests. “That will not functionality. You want to be yourself, the individual you are. Authenticity is so vital, and the integrity that will come with it.”

A person of his best frustrations came as minister of transportation and telecommunications, when he struggled all through the spin out of Sonera from the Nationwide Postal Services. Its shares rose sharply and then collapsed all through the IT bubble. “It didn’t go as efficiently as I hoped,” he suggests. “I realised how hard it is to incorporate the entire world of politics and enterprise. I should have involved all the associates even much more strongly to discover a popular alternative.”

He then took a break from politics, partly reflecting a want to “balance operate with spouse and children and restoration time”, as he suggests. “I learnt to constantly have much more of all those factors in your existence that give you strength than consider it away. Normally make absolutely sure you have a reserve to cope with surprises. If you never have that form of spare strength, they [excellent and terrible surprises] will consider you.”

He took demand of the condition broadcaster, and designed his identity as a supervisor, drawing parallels with his activities as a hobbyist trumpeter top a jazz band. “You generate some thing new with a shared melody that every person is aware of but with a large amount of space for improvisation. It’s the exact same in an organisation: you should have a couple procedures every person is fully commited to and go away space to generate new factors with absolutely everyone by means of listening and connecting.”

He established about amassing a combination of survey details and personal diaries and interviews from the Finnish public to comprehend their values and attitudes, which uncovered how various they have been from all those of most of his personnel. “You can have a stereotypical view of factors. That led me to definitely try to comprehend our citizens as prospects.”

3 concerns for Olli-Pekka Heinonen

Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo conducting the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Sakari Oramo

Who is your leadership hero?

The extremely substantial degree Finnish conductors Sakari Oramo, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Susanna Mälkki. I experienced the enjoyment of seeing them in motion in rehearsals and in live shows. It’s marvellous how these professionals can generate a relationship on the spot, give feedback and make qualified musicians do some thing jointly that you want them to do and do it in a way that they are giving their ideal.

What was the initial leadership lesson you learnt?

I performed tunes from a extremely youthful age and a extremely early lesson was when I observed how vital interior inspiration is to leadership: staying ready to generate inside inspiration for a team of persons to obtain some thing jointly.

What would you have carried out if you experienced not pursued your occupation in education and politics?

Audio would have been some thing I would have appeared to do, I would also have definitely savored staying an tutorial researcher. The capacity to inquire about and find out about new factors, try to discover some thing new and by means of that to make a variation.

On the lookout again on his activities, he concerns the idea that leadership centres on selection generating. “Actually implementation is the approach,” he suggests. “The way you are ready to employ factors is a extremely massive strategic selection. Academics will not obey for the reason that any individual suggests they should. They have to comprehend why and have the interior inspiration to do so. We should be speaking much more about the thought of imperfect leadership: to acknowledge uncertainty and generate discovering paths for the more substantial process to discover the alternative.”

The IB process is right now made use of by much more than 250,000 pupils in approximately 5,five hundred faculties all around the entire world. It has extended sought to educate pupils in a extensive vary of subjects with broader being familiar with of the theory of knowledge and the use of project and workforce-dependent operate alongside “high stakes” last written exams.

To many, that reflects the aspirations of many national education reformers to prepare for the issues of the coming century — despite the fact that some IB teachers bemoan that whilst they appreciate the basic principle of the qualification, they are discouraged with the organisation behind it and its sluggish rate of adjust. Like other exam bodies, it was criticised for how it modified its marking systems all through the pandemic.

Heinonen is confident that the IB embodies an tactic — also mirrored in the Finnish education process — in which “competences are becoming much more central. It’s about what you do with what you know and how to educate for an uncertain long term we cannot predict.”

He sees “strong commitment to consider the IB heritage into the new era” by personnel and teachers. “It’s not the approach, it is the implementation,” he suggests. “We have to have that more substantial jazz band seeking to engage in the exact same tone and improvise.”