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

By John Collard; Cecilia Reynolds | Go to book overview

13 'The Emperor has No Clothes':
Professionalism, Performativity
and Educational Leadership in
High-risk Postmodern Times

Jill Blackmore

Leadership has been positioned as the solution, the central structural and cultural focus in the recent trend to supposedly more autonomous self- managing institutions. Any quick survey of airport, university or local bookshops indicate numerous populist experts advocating different modes of leadership ranging from the more macho titles of Ready/Aim/Fire: strategic leadership, to more seductive titles of Intelligent Leadership (Mant 1997) and Emotional Intelligence (Goleman 1995). This focus on leadership was replicated in education during the 1990s where leadership supplanted management and administration in the lexicon of educational reform, and when management principles of efficiency and effectiveness became educational rules. Yet leadership is in crisis in the new millennium. There is a lack of public trust in leaders in politics, business and religion, as self-interest – the retention of power no matter how high the levels of greed and sexual impropriety, protecting 'one's own' before the rights of others displayed by those in official leadership – has become the main game. Justice Marcus Enfield (1997) commented that, at the very moment when we need a 'strong, moral and passionate leadership which will educate the public about human rights and our obligations towards fellow human beings', we are witnessing leadership which follows market polls and which cuts back the human rights infrastructure and gives over responsibility to the market. And yet we cling to particular leadership models of the 'emperor' dressed up as strong, macho and protective as a solution to our woes rather than seeing them as the problem. Leadership continues to be treated as an individualized and decontextualized practice. Yet the past decade has seen shifting boundaries and new sets of relationships that create new demands, problems and possibilities for leadership work.

I consider the implications for leadership as part of a wider professional enterprise to promote a deliberative democracy in the context of the rise of the performative state, new knowledge economies and the new work order (Gee and Lankshear 1995). I explore a number of interrelated themes;

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