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Circulating power and in/visibility: layers of educational leadership

Denise Mifsud (School of Education, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK.)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Article publication date: 12 January 2015




The purpose of this paper is to study circulating power and in/visibility. In the unfolding Maltese education scenario of decentralization and school networking, suffused with entrenched power, with added layers of leadership and more subtle levels of accountability, this paper explores the underlying power relations among the top educational leaders, namely, the College Principal and Heads of School, and among the Heads of School themselves.


Foucault’s theories of power, governmentality and subjectivation are used as “scaffoldings” for the exploration of power relations. This case study research exploring one “college” is carried out through in-depth semi-structured interviews, participant observation of Council of Heads (CoH) meetings, as well as documentary analysis of the policy mandating this reform, explored through narrative analysis.


Analysis shows that layers of hierarchical leadership do translate into layers of “visibility”, with the Principal being rendered the most “visible” actor according to role designation and policy rhetoric. Struggles in the dynamics between tiers of leaders are a reality. Despite a deeply felt presence of the circulation of power, it is the Principal who has the final say.


This is expected to contribute to educational leadership literature with regards to the relationship among top educational leaders. Through its provision of a diverse reading of leadership, it is deemed to be of particular relevance to professional work and learning in areas of leadership, of interest to budding scholars, seasoned Foucauldians and practicing educational leaders.



Mifsud, D. (2015), "Circulating power and in/visibility: layers of educational leadership", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 27 No. 1, pp. 51-67.



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Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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