Exploring educational leadership
Exploring educational leadership

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Exploring educational leadership

10 Educational leadership and management: contested concepts

Rather than adopting simple definitions and models of educational leadership and management, we argue that these are contested concepts that can be challenged when you think critically. Key questions that help us to adopt a critical approach to thinking about educational leadership are those that ask what the theories presented have to say about individual agency, power, views of knowledge and context. In adopting a critical approach to thinking, we need to closely examine the concepts used by theorists, and evaluate their ideas, evidence and underpinning world view. Even so, the relationship between educational leadership and management theory is not straightforward, and the relationship between theory and practice is also complicated.

Middlehurst (2008) outlines seven reasons why educational leadership is a contested concept. She goes on to explain that ‘General theories do not provide a specific tool kit that can be applied successfully in every circumstance, and apparently well-tailored leadership competence models do not identify consistently successful behaviours or successful individuals’ (p. 133). Middlehurst suggests that the relational nature of leadership goes some way towards explaining that. The article makes it clear that there is no single leadership solution or style that suits everyone and every situation, and that there has generally been a move away from a belief in the ‘heroic’ leader who was born with certain charismatic charms that enabled them to lead others, regardless of the situation, towards a belief that leadership can be shown by a whole range of people.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371