Leadership, Gender and Culture in Education: Male and Female Perspectives

By John Collard; Cecilia Reynolds | Go to book overview

9: Leadership, Embodiment and
Gender Scripts: Prom Queens
and Chief Executives

Cecilia Reynolds


Introduction

In my writing and research in the area of school/university leadership and administration (for example, Reynolds and Young 1995, Reynolds 2002a), I have come to recognize that three dualisms prevail. There is much written about good/effective leaders, as opposed to poor/ineffective leaders. There also is literature describing the differences between male and female leaders, particularly their leadership styles. Across most of this work, however, a third and largely unarticulated dualism persists: the split between mind and body regarding leadership work.

The discourse about good or poor leaders, about male or female leaders, seldom considers the body type of the leader, the sexuality of the leader, or the 'body work' that leadership requires. If you look closely at studies and discussions of leadership, you find that attention is focused on what leaders think and say and not much attention is paid to what they emote, enact or embody. There seems to be an assumption that the work of leading and managing in school and university settings is work of the mind rather than the body.

Reliance on the Cartesian split between mind and body has contributed to a focus in the school leadership literature (and in much of what most people know about school leaders) on the mental, rather than the bodily, aspects of what transpires when people perform leadership roles. Feminist insights about embodiment (such as those offered in Horner and Keane 2000), however, stress that all of us come to our leadership work as embodied individuals. We are seen by others, and by ourselves, as either male or female, belonging to a particular ethnic/racial group or groups, short or tall, attractive or unattractive, and as matching or not matching dominant images for the roles we take on. Moreover, we use our bodies to carry out much of our leadership work, not just our minds (for further discussion see Reynolds 2002a).

Educational scholars Eisner and Powell (2002: 134) have indicated the important role that 'somatic forms of knowledge' play in the work that

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