Understanding Educational Leadership: People, Power and Culture

By Hugh Busher | Go to book overview

9 Strategies of success at middle
leader level

Focusing on middle leaders

Micro-politics lies at the interface between agency and social structure (Ball 1987), describing the ways in which actors engage with the social systems and structures (Giddens 1984) that surround them. As such, understanding them is fundamental to understanding not only the leadership of schools (Hoyle 1986) but also the resistance that people encounter when trying to implement policies and practices. Micro-political processes, then, describe holistically all the interactions of people in organizations (Ball 1987), allowing educational organizations and communities (Sergiovanni 1994) to be viewed as political systems in which participants are political actors with their own interests and values. Educational decision-making and practice from whole-school to classroom level is the primary arena of conflict and negotiation (Bacharach 1983).

Actors in schools (staff, students and parents) and the stakeholders outside school engage with the policies that emerge in different national and local arenas in society, and internally through the actions of managers at various levels in a school's hierarchy (although primarily from senior staff), through a variety of different micro-political strategies. Through these they try to project power to shape decisions to promote their own preferred values. Their actions are purposeful if not always overtly explained. As social systems are made up of individuals (Greenfield 1993), what is being described is how actors engage with other actors singly and in groups, some of whom have more power than others through access to a variety of different types of resources. As each actor's different personality or personhood (Aubrey et al. 2000) is part of the process of social interaction, this, too, is a source of power that varies in strength from one person to another. Weber (1947) described this as charisma.

One such group of actors in secondary schools is the middle leaders. These include subject leaders, who are sometimes called heads of

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