John West-Burnham

Educational Leadership Development

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This article offers a model of effective leadership that is a synthesis of a wide range of sources and ideas. The approach of the discussion is essentially normative although it is recognised throughout that leadership is an essentially contingent context. However complex the debate about effective leadership there is a pragmatic argument that certain types of leadership behaviour do seem to be more effective than others in terms of a range of desired outcomes. There is an increasingly robust evidence base that points to certain leadership approaches being more appropriate than others e.g. Bryk et al (2010) and Robinson (2011)

There are numerous formulations of effective leadership. They are usually the product of a complex range of variables that generate numerous permutations that in turn are the product of policies, philosophies and cultural norms. So distributed leadership will have very different implications in one school system compared to another, equally instructional leadership is a norm in some systems and seen to be inappropriate in others where learning centred leadership is preferred. Having said that there are a number of elements in most models of leadership that seem common across cultures and over time.

What follows is an exploration of those elements of educational leadership that seem to be found, albeit with varying characteristics, across places and times. This is not to argue for a definitive answer to the debate as to what constitutes effective leadership but rather to explore the implications in terms of developing a shared understanding of leadership structures, relationships and development. Equally these propositions are not presented in terms of hierarchical significance, different elements will have different levels of significance at different times and the relative significance of each element will also vary according to context.


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