Leadership for Mortals

21st October 2005 at 01:00
Leadership for Mortals: developing and sustaining leaders of learning

By Dean Fink

Paul Chapman pound;19.99

This book is a welcome antidote to the notion of school leaders as heroic figures. Dean Fink is aware of how terrifying, as well as inappropriate, "dream lists" of best practice must appear to aspiring and new principals.

These dreary lists demand that principals, as well as managing and leading their schools, should inspire, unite, empower, distribute leadership, and so on.

Fink, who has been a principal, superintendent, writer, researcher and education consultant, knows the reality of doing these jobs while attempting to retain your sanity and some semblance of a personal life. He draws on a wealth of experience, acknowledges his mistakes and demonstrates how he learned from them.

This accessible, honest book is not only for principals; Fink believes that everyone in school is a leader because they can all influence others. It is clear from the references that Fink reads widely, and he applies a host of current thinking about leadership from the education and business worlds.

He quotes Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, who made it clear that intuition was as important as analysis. For Giuliani, leaders who only use data are like computers spitting out formulae.

Fink also draws on the ideas of the philosopher John Ralston Saul, who believes that everyone has a toolkit of qualities: reason, ethics, imagination, intuition, memory and common sense. Fink demonstrates how the toolkit can be used by school leaders, often quoting from his own experience. Some of his examples will be unfamiliar to UK educationists, but the issues explored in the stories will resonate with readers.

Dean Fink's commitment to enhancing the life chances of young people shines through the pages.

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