Democratic Leadership in Education
By Philip A Woods
Paul Chapman pound;19.99
Philip Woods is another author who dislikes the idea of the heroic leader.
He is concerned with the quality of the education experience, not just the outcomes.
Democratic Leadership in Education is a harder read than Dean Fink's book, but I'm glad that I persevered beyond the first few pages in the theoretical chapters. The early discussion puts what follows into a framework and made me realise how much there is to know about the subject.
Wood takes us through various models of democracy; for schools he advocates what he calls developmental democracy, which emphasises the realisation of human potential.
For Woods, democratic leadership includes engaging in the search for common human good, the right to participate in decision-making, dispersing leadership, and being accountable. The voice of students must also be heard.
The chapter about links to learning highlights the importance of the latter, but also recognises the tensions involved. For example, what happens when students are encouraged to get involved in decision-making but then do not get what they have asked for? Of course, an important lesson in democracy is that we all have the right to make our wants known and to question, but not always to get what we want.
Wood also discusses obstacles to democratic leadership, warning that efforts to be more inclusive and accountable can create an ineffective democracy unless the framework of power relations is addressed.
This is an important book for anyone who is serious about introducing or sustaining democratic leadership in schools. Busy practitioners will still get much from it by going straight to the chapters about how democratic leadership could be made to work.
Kate Myers is senior associate in leadership for learning at the University of Cambridge