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management & leadership

August 3, 2013


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School management and leadership are often conflated but, while they are inter-related concepts, they are not identical; a well managed school may not necessarily be well led, and much depends on whether espoused theories accord in reality with theories-in-use (Argyris, 1995; Argyris & Schon, 1974). The converse is more likely a well led school will probably be well managed.

Thus, the relationship of management to leadership can be seen as symbiotic, perhaps depicted as a venn diagram highlighting areas of commonality as well as distinction. Since features of managing and leading involve different skills, foci and strategies, effective leaders will cultivate mindful harmony of both practices in order to achieve school improvement through unrelenting focus on learning as a collaborative endeavour (Hargreaves, 2010).

Management has been distinguished as maintenance whereas leadership is seen as learning and development by theorists identifying transformation as a dynamic of

collaborative learning that leads to purposeful change (Hopkins & Jackson, 2003, p. 100).

Given the complexity of this interplay, where intricate embedded interaction

converts tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge on an ongoing basis (Fullan, 1999, p. 15),

artful school leadership demands setting and communicating the organisation’s vision as its most important feature (Mendels, 2012). Since any learning ecosystem is complex, and processes can appear turbulent, if not chaotic (Meadows, 2008), alignment of leadership practice will involve

the deliberate linking of the key features of the school so as to best serve the purposes of the school as a dynamic educational environment (ACEL, 2011).


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Essential features of school leadership therefore include:

  • Setting direction through the school vision and generating influence
  • Attending to the organisation’s health as both well managed (resources, policies & frames)  and well led (people in context)
  • Awareness of distinct tensions through reciprocal process (Hargreaves, 2010).


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Selected references

ACEL. (2011). Diagnostic inventory of school alignment. USQ Australia: University of Southern Queensland. Retrieved July 30 2013 from:

Argyris, C. (1995). Action Science and Organizational Learning. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 10(6), 20-26.

Argyris, C. & Schon, D. (1974). Theory in Practice: Increasing professional effectiveness. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Fullan, M. (1999). Change forces: The sequel. London: Falmer Press.

Hargreaves, D.H. (2010). Creating a self-improving school system. Nottingham: National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services.

Hopkins, D., & Jackson, D. (2003). Building the capacity for leading and learning. In A. Harris, C. Day, D. Hopkins, M. Hadfield, A. Hargreaves & C. Chapman (Eds.), Effective leadership for school improvement (pp. 84-104). New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

Meadows, D. (2008). Thinking in systems: A primer. White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Mendels, P. (2012). The effective principal. Journal of Staff Development, 33(1), 54 – 58.

Sackson, E. (2010). Manager vs. leader. Toondoo cartoon. Retrieved February 26, 2013 from:

4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 3, 2013 11:15 pm

    I liken it to flying a kite.
    Leadership is akin to the wind and updrafts (vision and planning) which keep it aloft. Without the steady, skillful guidance from the tug of the string (Management), the kite would float more-or-less aimlessly back to earth.
    And, yes, there always needs to be a productive tension between the two 🙂

  2. August 4, 2013 6:18 am

    Thanks for sharing the metaphor, Maurice – I am building a collection 🙂 Favourites so far are Drucker’s “harmonise” and “dance” via Meadows.
    Our Dean of Education warns us to beware adjectival leadership; complexity is the reigning paradigm it seems, and mechanistic models are outmoded (Senge criticises “machine age thinking”).
    Interesting unit so far – the remainder of assignment one occupies space between my head and Evernote, so, more to come!

  3. August 4, 2013 12:32 pm

    Thanks for this Sam – have just started Masters of Ed Leadership myself this past week – will need to clip this to Evernote myself for my first assignment! Thanks for the references too.

    • August 4, 2013 5:35 pm

      Best wishes for the study, Denise – hope workshops, reading and discussions are inspiring.
      What is your first assignment?

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