Leadership: The Enduring Quest For The Philosopher’s Stone

Year: 2015

Author: English, Fenwick, Ehrich, Lisa C.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Leadership studies and the largely dominant undifferentiated concept of leadership dominant today have functioned as “the philosopher’s stone,” the magic formula of ancient and medieval times in which lead was turned into gold. This chapter will examine the amalgam of the residue of the theory movement in educational administration and the strange hybrid which has emerged in which the concept of leadership serves as an ink blot test for a mixture of scientific rationalism anchored in economics and rational choice
theory mixed with theological mysticism in which visions and missions are believed to produce state defined educational success for all.

Using the Bourdieusian concept of misrecognition the authors will present a line of argument that shows that an undifferentiated concept of leadership enables every imaginable agenda for turning schools into for-profit businesses to thrive under the management of a new breed of educational entrepreneur as the emerging high priests of practice.

The argument will advance the notion that some human enterprises are more dependent on leadership than others, i.e., so-called “grass roots” organizations which are not yet bureaucratized, and the arts. Using data from their own research on artistic performance outside bureaucratic structures, the authors proffer that it enables one to more clearly see the shortcomings and foibles of educational leadership as it is being taught, promoted and practiced in universities and schools today.

One solution is to define more sharply leading and to contextualize and differentiate the occasions and conditions in which both people and projects deemed worthwhile can mutually benefit. One requirement may be to unlock the state/school nexus in which the economic aims of the state overshadow every other aspect of education.