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.