Slaying the edu-hero: Metaphors for alternative ways of leading

Year: 2017

Author: Heffernan, Amanda, MacDonald,Katrina, Netolicky, Deborah, Grice, Christine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Leading, especially leading that resists dominant narratives and accepted ontologies, is a personal and political act. Leading can be an act of service and of resistance. Despite broad and burgeoning literature on leadership, the seductive trope of the strong, visible, central hero leader persists, and is reflected everywhere from global politics to local education.

This symposium harnesses metaphor as a meaning making frame and analytical tool for defining reality, structuring experience, and understanding intangibles like nuanced feelings, abstract beliefs, and complex human experiences. In this case the focus is the lived experience of school leadership in Australian schools. Moving from the principal as central school leadership figure to leadership distributed between middle leaders and coaches, the symposium draws together empirical research, from various school sectors in four different Australian states, in order to nudge at the boundaries of what is considered leadership and leaderly behaviours in schools.

Drawing from the ground up, from leaders themselves, this symposium advocates for diverse alternative metaphors for school leadership, including those that are contradictory and unexpected. It presents varied leadership approaches and ontologies, in action, across Australia, providing education leadership researchers, school leaders, and would-be-school-leaders, with alternative ways of thinking about and enacting leadership in schools.