In previous chapters I have tried to show how new frames of thinking in terms of complex processes and living systems increase our understanding of the way our schools actually operate. In this chapter I will continue the theme of 'steering' and look at the way these frames influence management and leadership, particularly as they affect a school's possibility of being creative and innovative. The emphasis will be on how emergent processes can be 'managed', and the way this leads to a number of leadership paradoxes.
Our practice of leadership becomes much more natural and spontaneous if it arises from deep in our understanding rather than from a set of behavioural prescriptions we have learned. L. Michael Hall (2001) has written extensively about the way we understand experiences so that they fit into frames we have, built on our past experiences or cultural expectations. They are usually hidden from consciousness but act as attractors, giving meaning to events, and making us tend to focus on those aspects of experience that confirm them. At a simple level, they can be regarded as the 'rules of the game'. Frames create and direct our focus, and therefore govern what we perceive. They are deep schemata in our minds, which affect our values and ideas of meaning. It follows that frames constrain our thinking, and conversely, if we change the frame, the meaning of our experience changes.
The frame set by a complex living systems perspective is very different from one set by a social engineering viewpoint. Pascale and colleagues (2000) describe the latter as the dominant twentieth-century paradigm for management. It represents machine-model cause and effect thinking, shown in such assumptions as the leader being the head, with all the intelligence, and the organisation being the body; the idea of predictable change that is planned and controlled; and 'cascading' intention - initiative flowing from top down, sometimes with a 'veneer of participation'. Pascale regards this approach as so pervasive it is almost invisible: in framing terms, the frame has become an automatic presupposition. Engineering works to achieve convergence with management's view and purpose.