iStock 497127816

21st Century Educational Leadership


This article is Part 1 of 11 on a series of reflections on Patrick Duignan's book, "Educational Leadership".


Leadership is defined as, 'the activity of engaging the important but confounding conditions of multi-systemic domains that are necessarily undergoing profound change'.


Einstein stated, ‘Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts’, (Duignan).


Duignan argues that a new kind of leadership paradigm is needed to lead authentic learning in twenty-first century schools. Current measures of successful leadership that are based on improvement in educational outcomes for students, focus on the easily measured outcomes that are usually some kind of test score. Such measures fail to adequately capture many things that count but cannot be measured.


The second goal of the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (2008) includes some of these hard to count qualities when it states “all young Australians [should] become: successful learners, confident and creative individuals, active and informed citizens.” It is questionable to what extent being a successful learner can be measured by a test score and there are no measures of confidence or creativity or active citizenship other than subjective comments on some school reports. This current focus may exclude such valued outcomes of schooling as moral character, honesty and trustworthiness, ethical behaviour, feelings of self-worth, student social skills and resilience, aesthetic development, respect and compassion for others, and respect for our environment (Duignan) and fails to prepare students for their place in the twenty-first century knowledge society.


Today’s students need to be enabled to flourish in a knowledge society so they need authentic leaders and authentic learning that equip them to maximise their learning, stimulate ingenuity and invention, and develop their capacity to initiate and cope with change (Hargreaves, 2003, p.33). This calls for a new paradigm of leadership where decision making is not only informed by the past experiences but also interrogates the emerging future (Senge et al, 2004, p.86).


On this basis Duignan says that educational leaders need to reappraise current dominant paradigms of education that encourage management views of educational leadership, teaching approaches that promote instructional leadership, and testing regimes that narrow the curriculum, resulting in an excessive commitment to measurable educational outcomes (Duignan).


The challenge for today’s leaders is to lead differently in this time of change. This is difficult because it often requires a shift from a hierarchical world model to an inclusive and collective leadership model that is different from the one in which many leaders have been trained (Patrick Duignan, 2012, pp. 49–52). Leadership needs to be based on a clear and shared moral purpose that reflects a collective, collegial endeavour and sustainable ethic of responsibility where all stakeholders have appropriate involvement in key decisions that affect them (Patrick Duignan, 2012, p. 29). The challenge for leaders is to provide students with learning environments that engage and challenge them morally, ethically and socially as well as educationally and academically. (Patrick Duignan, 2012, p. 8)


Duignan argues that this revolution does not require throwing out instructional leadership, testing and evidenced-based improvement but rather reinterpreting, rebooting, re-forming them within the broader educational parameters of the Melbourne Declaration and revaluing the importance of people, relationships, professional expertise and schools’ collective efficacy to promote successful student outcomes for 21st century socio-educational environments (Duignan).


Publication Bibliography

Duignan, P (Unpublished). Leadership Presence and Influence Relationships: building collective efficacy and professional responsibility for quality learning and teaching in schools.

Duignan, P. (2012). Educational Leadership (2nd ed). Melbourne, NSW: Cambridge University Press.


Back to Top