Leading People: Learning from People

Alan Pritchard (Graduate School of Education, The University of Western Australia)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 1 March 2000




Pritchard, A. (2000), "Leading People: Learning from People", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 38 No. 1, pp. 102-103. https://doi.org/10.1108/jea.2000.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This book presents eight case studies of leaders and practitioners in the fields of school education and higher education in the UK and in Australia. The authors focus on how educational change is approached by these individuals through a continuous quest for better practice to improve the quality of teaching and learning provision. Each case is contextualised and linked to theory which offers an explanation of what occurred and what might have been managed better, and leaves the reader examining similar working life experiences.

As a past secondary principal and current member of an education faculty I felt a degree of empathy with each case and concluded my reading of the book with a reaffirmation that events are not specific to any one education sector; rather themes hold valuable insights across sectors, a point proffered by the authors in the preface.

The title of the opening chapter “Individuals and institutions: the soloists in the orchestra”, is an apt metaphor. The book’s theme concerning the value of collaboration and teamwork is established in the chapter as are a number of issues that influence individual performance and team success. Key among these are the pace of change and the place of differing values held by stakeholders in any change process. Perhaps a minor criticism may lie in the optimism expressed by sentiments that all staff are likely to be well qualified as soloists in their own specialist areas (p. 11) and that self‐interest is not a significant factor in the scuttling of change (p. 18).

The first case presented, that of conflict and convergence of values in a tertiary department under threat, is particularly strong. Issues are presented clearly, the narrative flows and the potential for learning is considerable. Catchy subtitles such as “the bursar’s revenge”, “the spring clean”, “high noon” and “the move to the new‐look department” help maintain a high level of reader interest. Commentary is critical and positive, particularly as it relates to the micro‐politics of the “protection of turf”, a theme which is deemphasised to some extent in the opening chapter.

Other cases presented concern communication; de‐skillers and empowerers; learning to shed old skins; investing jointly in people and in systems; controlling? connecting? and working together to find solutions; the quiet workers and the trumpet blowers; and moving to a new professionalism. Themes include the value of continuous shared discourse, leading by example; the creation of opportunities for subordinates, the importance of optimism in facing change; conflict and congruence in investing in people and achieving national standards in the UK; consultation and consensus as pathways rather than as ends in themselves; university quality assurance audits; and school development planning.

Throughout the book the authors have argued that the “post‐authoritarian” professional needs to have a high level of interpersonal skills, a genuine concern for people, and a willingness to lead by example. The cases presented make powerful statements in support of this perspective.

The clear linking of relevant theory to the authors’ first‐hand knowledge of educational practice is a strength that enriches the potential for readers to build frameworks for reflection on their own practices. Perhaps that linking of theory to practice could have been taken one step further by including a few paragraphs in an introduction on the value of case studies to inform future practice.

The book should be a valuable acquisition to educational leadership libraries in schools and in universities. It should also be a valuable acquisition to the personal libraries of those involved in leadership studies.

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