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Macro Challenges


This article is Part 6 of an 11 part series of reflections on Patrick Duignan's book, "Educational Leadership".


Leadership in a turbulent, uncertain and rapidly changing world needs leaders who are capable of responding ‘adaptively to the depth, scope, and pace of change that combined with complexity creates unprecedented conditions’ (Parkes, 2005 in Duignan, 2012, p. 17). In the context of education adapting to new challenges involves learning and developing new leadership capacities (Duignan, 2012, pp. 21–27).


Duignan outlines three key macro challenges presented by the world context in which education is occurring. The first is the rise of the new individualism which causes people to grasp at more temporary and less fulfilling forms of engagement rather than finding their identity, meaning and purpose through being part of a community.  


The second macro challenge is to denounce the ethic of self-fulfilment and achievement. These two trends often lead to process addictions like working long hours, stressful jobs and spending beyond our means, as these are seen as the barometers of success in our society (Brenton and Largent, 1996, p. 2 in Duignan, 2012, pp. 6–7).


The third is the rise of the concept that education must primarily be the servant of economic and industrial development. This has resulted in educational rationalists wanting to quantify everything and measuring only things that are easy to measure (Duignan, 2012, pp. 17–19), and students being seen as products to which value is added during their time at school. This educational framework does not produce the kind of creative thinkers, problem solvers, potential innovators and entrepreneurs, team players and graduates who are adaptable and self-confident; the kind of citizens that most employers want (Robinson, 2011) and who contribute to society.


Leaders need to prepare students to address the challenges above while preparing them to thrive in a different type of society: a knowledge society (Duignan, 2012, p. 33) This involves a paradigm shift in schools from testing and accountability to a focus on students and quality learning, teachers as leaders of curriculum and pedagogy, and principals as leaders of learning. Duignan suggests that educational philosophies need to be characterised by health and wellness awareness, learning and thinking skills, information and communications technology and life skills in leadership, ethics, personal productivity and responsibility, self-direction and social responsibility (Duignan, 2012).


Hargreaves suggests that to achieve this, schools should be developed as a learning society or learning community that helps people process information and knowledge in ways that maximise learning, stimulates ingenuity and invention, and develops the capacity to initiate and cope with change (Hargreaves, 2003, p.1 in Duignan).


Duignan proposes that if authentic leaders are to enable students to flourish in a knowledge society a new paradigm of leadership is also needed; one that reflects a collective, collegial endeavour and that is not seen as the enterprise of any one individual like the principal. In this model of leadership all stakeholders have appropriate involvement in key decisions that affect them and share the responsibility for leadership. (Duignan, 2012, p. 29)


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.


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