1 What is educational leadership?

Leadership is a complex matter: a plethora of publications have been written on the subject. From the outset it should be stated that there is no one right way of leading, and that there are no quick fixes or easy recipes for resolving educational leadership challenges.

This course introduces some of the academic tools and ideas that will support you to develop a critical perspective about approaches to leadership in your own context. We have all experienced the leadership of others in our professional and personal lives, and we will all have a view about which leadership actions, behaviours and strategies might be required in a given situation.

However, there can be confusion about what terms such as ‘leadership’, ‘leading’, ‘administration’ or ‘management’ can mean across organisations. Over time, the names of roles have evolved to reflect the amount of leadership expected. Schools use terms such as:

  • ‘middle managers’
  • ‘subject leaders’
  • ‘leaders of learning’
  • ‘senior management teams’
  • ‘senior leadership teams’.

What is generally accepted is that:

  • leadership is exercised by many professionals
  • leadership tasks can be performed by many members of an organisation with and without positional authority.

Many roles are a combination of ‘leading’ and ‘managing’, and the emphasis will vary from person to person and from organisation to organisation. Leading has been described as working with people to change behaviours, attitudes and values, whilst managers are more likely to maintain the performance of people and systems. However, from an academic perspective, educational leadership and management remain as contested concepts!

Activity 1: Leadership and management

Timing: Allow approximately 30 minutes

Consider the ‘leadership and management’ structures in an organisation that you are familiar with. Who appears to have leadership responsibility as part of their role and what evidence do you have to support this judgement?

Can you think of and list some examples of change within your school that are a direct or indirect result of leadership practice? Again, what evidence can you draw upon to support your views?

Record your thoughts in a blog on the course website. [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

2 The context of leadership in Wales