Questioning Leadership offers a diverse mix of cutting-edge research in the field of educational leadership, with contributions from expert and emerging leadership scholars. It contextualises school leadership within broader social and historical contexts and traces its influence on school performance through time, from its relatively modest role within a systems theory paradigm to its growing influence from the 1980s onwards, as exercising leadership came to be perceived as being largely responsible for improving educational outcomes.
This book invites the reader to challenge the current orthodoxy of leader-centrism and instead reflect more broadly on the various structural and institutional interrelationships that determine how a school functions successfully. It poses challenging questions, such as:
- Is leadership really necessary for high-quality school performance?
- Can schools function effectively without leadership?
- Is it possible to describe the work that principals do without using the word ‘leadership’?
- How do we challenge the assumption that leadership simply exists and that it is seen as the appropriate default explanation for school performance?
This book does not assume that leadership is the key to organisational performance, although it acknowledges the work that principals do. It goes against current orthodoxy and offers varied perspectives on how leadership might be repositioned vis-à-vis organisational and institutional structures. It also suggests some new directions for leading and learning and throws open a discussion on leadership that for too long has been captured by the assumption that the leader is the cause of organisational performance and learning outcomes in schools.
At a time when leadership’s dominance seems unshakeable, this is a bold book that should appeal to postgraduate students of educational leadership and management, those undertaking training in educational administration and current school leaders interested in exploring the value of leadership for educational organisations.
Preface Acknowledgments PART I: Foundational Issues in Leadership Theory 1. Challenging leadership: The Issues Gabriele Lakomski and Colin W. Evers 2. Beyond leadership: Towards a ‘relational’ way of thinking Scott Eacott 3. Everything we know about educational leadership is wrong: Rethinking scholarship and practice for a fractured field Jeffrey S. Brooks 4. Disambiguating leadership: The continuing quest for the philosopher’s stone Fenwick W. English and Lisa Catherine Ehrich Commentary: The rise and rise of leadership Tony Bush PART II: Postmodernist Perspectives on Leadership 5. Zombie
leadership, the différend and deconstruction Richard Niesche 6. Problematisations, practices and subjectivation: Educational leadership in neoliberal times Brad Gobby 7. Performatively resignifying leadership Christina Gowlett 8. Thinking beyond leadership as a service to policy: ‘Seeing things big’ in a dialogic 'public space' Bev Rogers Commentary: Questioning postmodernism – does it have something to offer leadership fields? Robert Donmoyer PART III: Select Issues in Leadership Theory and Practice 9. (Re)positioning the distributed ‘turn’ in leadership Howard Youngs 10. Leadership standards and the discursive repositioning of leadership, leaders, and non-leaders: A critical examination Augusto Riveros, Paul Newton and David Burgess 11. Reflections on successful school leadership from the International Successful School Principalship Project Lawrie Drysdale and David Gurr 12. The future of leadership: New directions for leading and learning Gabriele Lakomski, Colin W. Evers and Scott Eacott Commentary: Silos, bunkers, and their voices Peter Gronn
Questioning Leadership—it’s about time! Leadership is one of the most overused terms in contemporary society. Unfortunately, the concept of leadership has become ambiguous, misleading, a ‘catch cry,’ and in the end, a meaningless cliché, which makes its systematic analysis, discourse, and study perilous at best. This book is a welcome attempt to balance the glorified rhetoric of leadership with the structural and contextual constraints that make leadership difficult, situational, and paradoxical. Questioning Leadership is a timely challenge to the current canons of leader-centrism; it restores equilibrium and reflectiveness to a diverse term that has become a hackneyed slogan. This corrective collection is required reading for all who love to learn and dare to lead.
Wayne K. Hoy, Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University, USA
Just as the reforming school principal has become a key part of the mythology of devolved systems of schooling, so have relatively unexamined notions of school leadership come to dominate academic accounts of contemporary school management. This important book helps us to move beyond such lazy thinking. Following on from her earlier work, Managing without Leadership, Lakomski and her colleagues subject over-individualized understandings of leadership to sustained theoretical scrutiny. Although the editors insist they are asking questions rather than providing answers, their impressive array of contributors and commentators offers us a rich choice of alternative ways of understanding school leadership.
Geoff Whitty, Director Emeritus, UCL Institute of Education, UK and Global Innovation Chair for Equity in Higher Education, University of Newcastle, Australia
Questioning Leadership edited by Gabriele Lakomski, Scott Eacott and Colin Evers arrives on the scene at a critical time. Educational leadership is in need of critical examination right now, before we jump off a cliff after the next big thing, the next leadership fad or fetish.
Well-conceived and adroitly executed, the book speaks to an important issue of our time: leadership, generally, and educational leadership more specifically. Lest the book be pigeon-holed and, therefore, dismissed, be it known that this book speaks to leadership writ large; any and all can come away from reading it more considerate, more enlightened, more thoughtful. The format of the book is unique and uniquely suited to its intended aim—to look at leadership from top to bottom, head to tail, and inside out, and from multiple vantage points.
Lakomski, Eacott, and Evers have assembled some of the best scholars in the field today, and they provide the reader with some of their best ideas. The tone of the book is such that all can engage with its content, concepts and concerns, and we, our schools and our students will be all the better for it.
Duncan Waite, Professor, Community and Educational Leadership, Texas State University, USA and Director of The International Center for Educational Leadership and Social Change.