ERG SES H 05, Leadership and Education
In this paper, we explore the ways in which transactional leadership practices predicated on neoliberal exchange relations are being misrecognised as forms of leadership constructed as transformational and/or distributed. Our purpose is to understand and examine the tensions between leadership practices and the discourses and/or models leaders draw on to explain and understand these practices.
Transactional leadership appears in the literature predominantly as a conceptual foil to demonstrate the supposedly superior characteristics and effectiveness of transformational leadership (Bass, 1990; Burns, 1978). Transactional leadership consists in explaining followers’ wanting to do the will of leaders through exchange relations. Rewards and sanctions govern behaviours and practices to achieve organisational objectives. Transformational leadership has itself transitioned to more distributed forms as fashions progress (Gunter, Hall, and Bragg, 2013), and the normativity of leadership models has meant that what we argue is the necessity of recognising transactionalism as a mechanism for explaining current leadership has been overlooked or dismissed. This necessity arises from neoliberalism as the dominant framework for thinking about and doing educational leadership across Europe and internationally where “modernising”, “reform” agendas aim at raising standards, and where standards are conceptualised as pupils’ attainment in standardised tests (Ravitch, 2014). Neoliberalism constructs subjects as rational, economic actors engaged in individualised, transactional relationships (Ong, 2007). Consequently, a range of technologies underpin the “leadership” of performance including accountability through performance management, inspection and targets (Courtney, 2014).
Nonetheless, it is discursively constructed that leadership be transformational or distributed; consequently, these transactions are couched in transformational language invoking vision (Courtney and Gunter, 2015), motivation and development, and also in distributive terms, where the substantive content of leaders’ utterances belie any real democratisation of leadership. We argue that this, following Bourdieu (1990), constitutes a misrecognition of how leadership is actually done. Misrecognition permits actions and identifications which might otherwise prove dissonant or disruptive to identities operating according to doxa, or a set of unspoken assumptions, within a field of power.
Bass, B. M. (1990). From Transactional to Transformational Leadership: Learning to Share the Vision. Organizational Dynamics, 18(3), 19–31. Bourdieu, P. (1990). In other words: Essays towards a reflexive sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press. Burns, J. M. (1978). Leadership. New York: Harper & Row. Courtney, S. J. (2014). Post-panopticism and school inspection in England. British Journal of Sociology of Education. doi:10.1080/01425692.2014.965806 Courtney, S. J., & Gunter, H. M. (2015). Get off my bus! School leaders, vision work and the elimination of teachers. International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and Practice. doi:10.1080/13603124.2014.992476 Gunter, H. M., Hall, D., & Bragg, J. (2013). Distributed Leadership: A Study in Knowledge Production. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 41(5), 555–580. doi:10.1177/1741143213488586 Ong, A. (2007). Neoliberalism as a mobile technology. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 32(1), 3–8. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4639996 Ravitch, D. (2014). Hoaxes in Educational Policy. The Teacher Educator, 49(3), 153–165. doi:10.1080/08878730.2014.916959
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