Tongue-tied but relevant;Books;Management amp; Finance;Update

12th November 1999 at 00:00
CHANGING LEADERSHIP FOR CHANGING TIMES. By Kenneth Leithwood, Doris Jantzi, and Rosanne Steinbach. Open University Press, pound;16.99 pb, pound;50 hb.

This is an important and powerful book which speaks directly to educational leaders in schools, local authorities and central government. Sadly they will not find it an easy read. However, perseverance will be rewarded by stimulating insights into the big issues.

The authors work in the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto and their language and examples are evidently North American. Their purpose is clearly outlined and thoroughly achieved: "to offer a comprehensive approach to leadership that will help those in current and future schools respond productively to the significant challenges facing them". However, it is researchers and academics who will rejoice most in this work.

The leadership themes and issues addressed here are fundamental to debates on school improvement and effectiveness. The authors identify 20 leadership types and demonstrate the impact of transformational leadership. They analyse more than 20 research projects and support their arguments with reference to sources and a huge bibliography.

Yet there is also much in the authors' arguments for practitioners to engage with:

* They reject the notion of systemic change. Rather, they argue, future schools are likely to grow incrementally from existing ones.

* Transformational leadership makes a difference to outcomes.

* Leaders create conditions for growth, foster widely dispersed leadership, and build teachers' commitment to change.

* "Values are the leadership tools of post modern organisations".

* Future schools will need to be "high reliability learning communities". They will be inclusive, efficient, effective and adaptable.

* Leadership will be caring, participative, open to new ideas and tolerant of divergent view points.

Much of the context hits a raw nerve: the reduced respect for teacher professionalism; the need for life long learning. Only in their discussion of the centralisation of education do the authors reveal their inadequate understanding of British local authorities.

It is sad, therefore, that this important book represents a lost opportunity.

The North American vocabulary and sentence construction make access to the ideas and arguments extremely difficult. In addition, the technical language is forbidding and rooted in North American educational culture.

Although this book has something to say, I suspect few British practitioners will hear it.

John Jones

* The writer works at Keele University Improving Schools Network

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