Monday, February 8, 2010

Educational Leadership – Key Challenges and Ethical Tensions

Another book on Educational Leadership – Yes, but this is different! Provocative and
thought provoking, this book provides an exposition of the challenges and ethical
tensions faced by educational leaders in the current Australian context. Based on a threeyear
research study, Duignan establishes the key challenges and ethical tensions that
often keep educational leaders awake at night and provides a comprehensive overview
of roles and ethical considerations as educational leadership deal with these tensions.
In the substantial literature on the topic of educational leadership, this book addresses
aspects of the educational leadership themes outlined in a resent article published in
Australian Educational Leader, that is, Current Issues in Educational Leadership: What
is the Literature saying? (Cranston et al 2007). In this article the authors cite nine
themes focused around the following:
• Paradoxes and tensions inherent in educational leadership;
• The activity of leadership;
• Relationship between educational leadership and context; and
• Leadership competencies, standards, qualities and capabilities.
Whilst the book explores aspects related to each of these four focus areas, the author
centres the work on what he describes as the basic challenge of educational leadership,
that is, the need for sound ethical and moral standards in how organisations are led and
decisions made. The author goes on to state that it is the:
Ethical and social responsibility of educational leaders to create the type
of learning environments in their schools that will assist students to
develop a healthier balance between their individual interests and the
common good. (p. 3)
The author spends considerable time exploring what he believes are the real issues
around schooling and hence challenge for leadership, that is, the over emphasis on
individual interests to the detriment of the common good. He argues that:
leaders need to regard it as their ethical responsibility to promote and
support policies and practices in their schools that better prepare students
to be faithful and responsible citizens who will not just accept the world
as it is but will help transform their communities into havens of hope,
promise and living witnesses of the common good. (p. 11)
This challenge, he believes requires authenticity in leadership, authenticity based on
a value-driven vision, authentic relationships, leading people in complex, messy and
emotional organisations. He argues that more than ever before there is a need for
leadership which builds hope and trust and translates vision into daily practices of
work. However, drawing on a three-year research study, Duignan found that the key
challenges are tensions where values and ethics are contested. The real challenges,
he argues, are those that keep leaders awake at night and result in leaders retiring
early, for example, common good or individual good; care and rules; service and
economic rationalism; and loyalty and honesty.
In a response to these challenges and tensions, the author develops and explains a
framework for analysing these tensions, the decisions often having to be made in
situations of paradox and tensions. A method for contextual based ethical decisionmaking
is provided for educational leaders to assist them in the process. He also puts
forward a view that such decision-making is assisted when leadership is shared,
indicating that there is "wisdom in the crowd" (p105). There is a need to build
organisational cultures that promote and support greater sharing and distribution.
Such cultures enable principals to engage in dialogue with other key stakeholders and
as such listen to diverse viewpoints. However this approach to "sharing wisdom" does
require a rethink by educational leaders and educational communities of what
educational leadership actually means and involves.
Duignan then explores the need for educational leaders to develop capabilities to
enable them to lead wisely, effectively and ethically in uncertain times. Capable
leaders, Duignan claims, are authentic leaders, in terms of their values, intentions,
practices and accomplishments (p127), that is, those that help infuse educational
practice with a higher purpose and meaning. This requires the promotion of core
values as well as focusing on ethics and morality in actions and interactions. Authentic
leaders help create conditions in which teachers and students take considerable
responsibility for the quality of their own teaching and learning (authentic learning).
He offers measures for leadership authenticity and presence. He teases out an
authentic leadership capabilities framework, based on personal, relational,
professional, and organisational capabilities that form the basis of a professional
development framework for principals, illustrating how this framework can be used
to assist in development of aspiring as well as experienced principals.
So apart from providing a comprehensive overview of Educational Leadership for
Australian school contexts, the book is designed as a learning tool. It is jargon free,
clearly written and encourages the practitioner/reader to relate the concepts and
issues raised in each chapter to his/her context by providing a section: Key ideas for
Reflection. Unlike much that is written on Educational Leadership, Duignan’s work
leaves the reader with thoughtful insights into the field of Educational Leadership.

Patrick Duignan, Cambridge University Press, Victoria, 2006, 176 pages,ISBN: 13 978-0-521-68512-2, paperback, AUD49.95

Dorothy Andrews.
University of Southern Queensland

Cranston, N., Ehrich, L., & Morton, L. (2007) Current issues in educational leadership:
What is the literature saying? Australian Educational Leader, 29(2), 10-13.

1 comment:

  1. we will be unhappy if we don't want to be happy.

    start to think of happy