Leadership that gets to the heart of school renewal

Going through the emotions: leadership that gets to the heart of school renewal

Brenda Beatty

Holistic school renewal will require a qualitatively different discourse than the current uneasy conversations about school improvement and school effectiveness. Leadership for whole school renewal requires emotionally safe spaces for learning and growing together. Visions of school leadership as distributed, distributive and shared are grounded in notions of collaborative inquiry within dynamic learning communities. For shared leadership to breathe new life into whole school renewal, all leaders, including and especially the principal need to maintain a focus on the moment-to-moment emotional attunements that define experiences in spite of cognitive constructions and beliefs that may coexist along side of these.

School improvement and school effectiveness: an uneasy partnership

Key vehicles for school success are taking shape in the form of conversations born out of the uneasy partnership between school improvement and school effectiveness drivers. Holistic school renewal demands a qualitatively different discourse, one within which turf wars can be transcended, feelings of discomfort confronted and acknowledged and real issues integrated as the focus on improving practice for its own sake as an adventure in professional partnership becomes the main event. In order to be up to the task, leaders need to reconceptualise leadership itself as the invitation to share and embrace uncertainty so that their leadership serves to create openings for these different kinds of conversation. Leadership for whole school renewal requires emotionally safer spaces for learning and growing together. While the legal responsibility continues to rest squarely on the principal’s shoulders, ‘new’ visions of school leadership as distributed, distributive and shared are grounded in notions of collaborative inquiry within dynamic learning communities. The shift from political structures of traditional hegemonic bureaucratic hierarchy to something far more egalitarian, democratic and openly discursive can be challenging and discomforting to all concerned. Former bystanders are invited out of the stands and onto the court, to help make critical decisions, share in the creation of new knowledge, the collective ownership of the ideas of the day and the responsibility for outcomes as leaders try to loosen their grip on control. A major challenge for all staff involved in whole school renewal is how to handle the complex emotional meaning-making processes associated with attachment to the status quo that can impede or impel the successful reinvention of a school. Indeed holistic approaches that build inclusive trusting relationships that are sufficiently resilient to tough it out during the inevitable turbulence are the most likely to succeed. Even so, the work of whole school renewal can be so daunting that despite or even because of passion of purpose and absolute dedication, burnout and casualties are highly likely as curriculum, professional relationships, and roles for staff and students alike are reconstituted. Tall orders to be sure, but not insurmountable if all learn to go through the emotions to accomplish the inner and interpersonal work involved.

Educational reform took two very different forms following the release in 1983 of A Nation at Risk, the disturbing report on education in the United States that identified widespread academic underachievement (Goldberger & Harvey, 1983). Reform took the paths of either intensification or restructuring, both aiming to effect systemic and far-reaching change (Fullan, 1991). Standardised tests, continuous evaluation and monitoring served to intensify the ‘what and how’ of teaching, associated broadly with the methodology and focus of school effectiveness research. Restructuring involved school-based management, teacher participation in decision making, and reorganising schedules to support collaborative work cultures (Fullan, 1991). The latter approach can be broadly associated with the capacity building principles of school improvement research. Fullan (1991, p. 7) declared that the two approaches are ‘politically and philosophically at odds’; yet he predicted that the tug of war between proponents of the two factions would lead to combinations of the two approaches as a function of ‘the politics of strange bedfellows’.

A decade later Fullan, Little, Leiberman, Earl and Newman (2002) among others reflect the convergence Fullan predicted. In The Keys to School Effectiveness, these authors position deeper structural and cultural dimensions of school improvement as the ‘figure’ upon the ‘ground’ of existing ‘intensification’ drives for standardised testing and continuous data gathering.

The perils of performativity

There are those who caution that the current intensification era has deeply reductionistic ramifications, resulting from increased pressures for ‘performativity’ (e.g., Ball, 2000; Blackmore & Sachs, 1999):

Performativity is a technology, a culture, and a mode of regulation

… that employs judgements, comparisons and displays as means of

control, attrition and change. The performances (of individual

subjects or organisations) serve as measures of productivity or

output, or displays of ‘quality’, or ‘moments’ of promotion … or

inspection. They stand for, encapsulate, or represent the worth,

quality or value of an individual or organisation within a field of

judgement … The issue of who controls the field of judgement is

crucial. ‘Accountability’ and ‘competition’ are the lingua franca

of this new discourse of power’ (Ball, 2000, p. 1).

Ball cautions that within this kind of a regime, there is ‘a real possibility that authentic social relations are replaced by judgemental relations wherein persons are valued for their productivity alone” He draws on what Lash and Urry (1994, p. 15) call the ’emptying out’ of relationships, which are left ‘flat’ and ‘deficient in affect’ ‘which can lead to inauthentic practice and relationships’:

There is the possibility that commitment, judgement and

authenticity within practice are sacrificed for impression and

performance. There is a ‘splitting’ between the teacher’s own

judgements about ‘good practice’ and students ‘needs’ on the one

hand and the rigours of performance on the other (Ball, 2000, p.


Pressure to fabricate results is a further danger. Bali’s work warns that there is the potential for a number of dysfunctional side effects of the data-driven, heavily performance-focused approach. In effect, such an approach may threaten the social emotional currency of learning. An effective system needs to take stock of all gains and all losses; this requires ’emotional accountability’ too (Beatty, 2000, p. 16).

While intensification may further threaten the social connectedness in schools, Max Weber warned that it is in the nature of bureaucracies themselves that depersonalisation takes hold:

The more fully realised, the more bureaucracy ‘depersonalises’

itself, i.e., the more completely it succeeds in achieving the

exclusion of love, hatred, and every purely personal, especially

irrational and incalculable, feeling from the execution of official

tasks. In the place of the old-type ruler who is moved by sympathy,

favour, grace and gratitude, modern culture requires for its

sustaining external apparatus the emotionally detached, and hence

rigorously ‘professional’ expert (Max Weber as cited in Coser,

1977, p. 230).

Many would concur that professional relationships in schools have been of dubious quality anyway, due to norms of contrived collegiality (Hargreaves & Dawe, 1994) and balkanisation that have obstructed connectivity and left leaders and others languishing in separate silos.

It can be argued that in addition to the discomfort, there have been some definite benefits from the somewhat uneasy tensions between school improvement and school effectiveness drivers, tensions that have engendered some different data-focused dialogues that have created a stronger focus on professional practice. Holistic school renewal, however, involves more than an increase in intensity of the educator’s gaze.

To my way of thinking, school renewal implies re-invigorating, re-energising and in effect re-inventing the whole school as a dynamic learning community, within which both adults and children can thrive in genuine inquiry and the excitement of discovering and creating new knowledge together. The collaborative commitment necessary for reconfiguring curriculum across discipline areas, calls for reconstituting relationships so that they can become productive professional partnerships. This signals the need to reculture (Hargreaves & Fullan, 1998). To transcend turf wars, feelings of discomfort need to be confronted and acknowledged and real issues of power and authority seriously considered if the focus on improved practice for its own sake is to engender sufficient excitement to become the main event. This calls for more than greater school effectiveness in terms of ever more rigorous data tracking, even though this is very important. It means more than trying harder in the same schools as we have known them. Holistic school renewal involves the wholesale reinvention of what it means to live and learn, teach and lead in the schools of today and tomorrow.

If traditional bureaucratic hierarchical divisions of responsibility and chains of command are founded in depersonalisation, they are inadequate structures for holistic school renewal that would embrace dynamic collaborative learning at all levels, but if our cognitive constructs and emotional knowledge of schools, as they have been, persist in our personal cultural and political consciousness then how are we to experience deep change for renewal in schools? One answer lies in addressing the inner workings of the very structures that are holding us back.

I have often said that the professional silence on emotion is the self-replicating mechanism of bureaucratic hierarchy. While there are certain to be other factors, it has always seemed to me that despite the wide range of creative characters on school staffs, the typical use of threatened censure to eliminate the voice of dissent tends to impoverish the ‘professional’ discourse in schools. Epistemological perspectives that favour connected knowing favour the retention of relationships by encouraging convergence. Such orientations, while critical to the sense of the whole, and inherent in working toward inclusivity, can, at the same time, inadvertently silence the separate knowing associated with divergent thinking that enriches creativity and strengthens individual and collective efficacy in cooperative solution finding (Baxter Magolda, 1992; Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, & Tarule, 1997).

We are familiar with the ethic of brainstorming within which every suggestion is included without critique to promote the collection of an optimal quantity and quality of ideas. Most will be familiar with deBono’s thinking hats, which are used to help groups ‘move along’ in working through the conflicting complexities that brainstorming presents, by organising subgroups of idea exchanges along lines with the same trajectories, e.g., critique, affirmation, pragmatics. The use of change frames as a catalyst to educational change (Retallick & Fink, 2002) has produced signs of the utility in the deBono approach, along with further indications that the complexities of school change require us to go deeper. However, studies of group think have revealed the tendency of groups in pursuing the comfort of coherence, to lose sight of disconfirming evidence (Janis, 1982). Schools, whose cultures dictate that the only way to remain safe is to figure out what the principal wants and be seen to be in favour of it, soon train perfectly capable creative adults to give up on the possibility of making contributions that could be seen to run counter to the political push of the day. There are emotional reasons for this. It is just not worth the pain of being ostracised from the group. Some prefer the pain and their individuality to membership, but such staff members are typically labelled as troublemakers, bullies or worse. Even so the publicly silenced voice of dissent finds its own power by mustering subcultural factions of resistance, a phenomenon that regularly undermines the best laid plans for improvement.

Rather than going through the motions of being a part of a professional discourse that is anything but an expression of what people really believe and actually feel, there is an alternative: going through the emotions. This entails making them explicit and textual in the professional discourse, rather than implicit, silenced and subtextual only to be expressed in staff rooms, parking lots and Friday afternoon pub gatherings. To lead deep renewal in our schools, we need to bring those conversations ‘home’ to find their place in the warp and weft of the fabric of daily professional life; this, so that the renewal that can only occur through the combined energies of everyone in the group, can help the tapestries of our schools reflect vibrant colours and a different range of textures altogether.

The degree to which the exchange of a full range of perspectives is perceived to be welcome in professional conversations depends upon the power dynamics and associated kinds and levels of trust among the people present. Emotions perform a signal function that tells us when we are ‘inside’ and safe and when we are in danger of moving ‘outside’ the zone of safety that determines whether we will retain membership in the whole. When transgressed, these social boundaries, which we experience through our emotional signal systems as if the lines were electrified, inform us of our social and moral position. As Margolis (1998, p. 133) explains:

Emotions let us know when we are engaged in an interaction that is

not changing the boundaries around our many selves and when we are

engaged in an interaction that does involve shifting boundaries;

they allow us to juggle many moral systems simultaneously and to

know which are in use, just as the cones in our eyes allow us to

see many colours simultaneously and to distinguish among them.

For a whole school to experience renewal, the individuals that make up the whole need to redefine their purposes and processes together. This can only be done in sincere and candid collaborations, wherein customary patterns of contrivance and withholding of information are replaced with reconstituted relationships founded in faith in self and other and belief in the potential of the whole. Collective efficacy can grow in the context of candour, but there are turbulent times in between. To renew a school there needs to emerge a re-attunement to the holographic relationship between every individual and the whole of the school. The lived experience of a new kind of membership emerges as the culture is recreated together with leadership as a pervasive phenomenon.

In schools, in the presence of the principal, to whose positional power over their careers, teachers are highly sensitised (Beatty, 2002a, b, 2007; Leithwood & Beatty, 2008), teachers experience themselves and others through emotional expectations. I often argue that emotional knowledge is continuously produced, reproduced and communicated one way or another among members of groups and hence that emotions are epistemological. Our conceptions of emotions and their function and place in our social experiences, our emotional epistemological perspectives if you will, can and do affect our receptivity to this emotional knowledge, and what we do with it when we receive it.

Emotional ways of knowing profoundly affect our perceptions of reality and our ways of being in the world. Emotional knowledge, as we receive it, perceive it, interpret and generate it, can move us to action or keep us in paralysis. Whether or not we choose to admit it to ourselves, emotional ways of knowing continuously assist us in experiencing some sense of what, where and who we are (Beatty, 2000, 2002a, b, 2005, 2006). Paradigm wars will rage about whether emotions are best understood as internal private phenomena, external public phenomena, something in between, or something inextricably and dynamically enmeshed in the continuously negotiating and renegotiating social forces of culture, politics and self, but to promote school renewal, the principal must become an agent of multiple constituencies (Starratt, 1995). This adds complexity to the role that is particularly emotionally challenging.

While a variety of approaches to fostering collaborative cultures have been studied, such as Showers and Joyce’s (1996) extensive work on peer coaching, the role of the educational leader in setting the tone and establishing the culture consistently emerges as central to the overall success of such approaches. For instance, Garmston, Linder and Whitaker (1993) argue there is a range of ways to restructure so as to optimise opportunities for teachers to acquire mutually beneficial professional coaching relationships.

Leaders who seek to renew their schools wisely start by focusing on their own personal and professional renewal. This is inner work, which serves to remove obstacles to what Csikszentmihalyi (1990) calls flow. While flow can be associated with peak experiences like white water rafting, it can also be experienced in the daily course of one’s professional life, when total engagement and release of creative energies is enjoyed unobstructed by tensions and unresolved issues associated with fear of loss of control. Importantly, the micro-political realities of working in schools involve the inescapable complexities of power differentials, experienced through emotional signals that reflect and shape the individual lived experience of place in the dynamics within the social milieu, as perceived by that individual, from moment to moment.

Power, authority and emotion

Power is the result of a ‘multiplicity’ or ‘moving substrate of force relations’ (Foucault, 1990, pp. 92-93). One could make a case that the notion of power is itself chimerical, as is perhaps, the notion of emotion for that matter. To a great extent both power and emotions are ‘all in our minds’, but our sense of them–power, emotions and our minds themselves–are inseparable from personal, cultural and political (Harding & Pribram, 2004) experiences past and present that continuously create and recreate their meanings within us. Echoing Harding and Pribram’s call for the ‘serious consideration of the ways emotions may be part of knowledge production’ (p. 864), I have been arguing for some time that our attempt to treat emotions like pesky interlopers is utterly irrational. Emotions are not optional, and furthermore, they shape and reflect our experience of ourselves and others and the ability to re-envision our place in the social process. This is particularly pertinent to school renewal.

While Andy Hargreaves’ emotional geographies (2001) provides a theoretically powerful set of conceptual lenses through which to picture and describe emotional distance and closeness, contrary to Zorn and Boler’s (2007) suggestion, my own research is not an application of his framework. Beyond the drive for theoretical description, what has held me in its grip for a decade is the pursuit of a workable way to engage with the emotions within professional and academic educational discourses, in order to effect deep change in schools.

Emotions constitute an influential way of knowing and, as I have argued elsewhere, if we are to appreciate the power of emotional knowledge we need to examine the role of emotional knowledge authority (Beatty, 2002a). In the theoretical framework I have proposed, a range of four emotional epistemological perspectives position emotions variously as anything from shameful and therefore shunned, which I call emotional silence, to highly valuable and viable ways of knowing ourselves and each other as in the third and fourth perspectives or stances of transitional emotional relativism and resilient emotional relativity.

Within this emotional epistemologies theoretical framework, the third and fourth stances lead from one to the other as the professional silence on emotion is broken and the sharing in emotional meaning making begins to inform collaborations and release creative potential. I see resonance with these last two concepts from my own theoretical framework and Zorn and Boler’s (2007) call for greater emphasis on the space between people, as a way of understanding emotions, power and their relationship with one another: ‘The prefix “inter” could be used in a wider sense to mean “mutual or reciprocal”, suggesting that boundaries disappear, as in the words interrelate and intermingle’ (19. 141). Like the other components of my framework, these last two stances emerged from the grounded theory analysis of data from teacher interviews and principal discussions of the emotions of leadership (Beatty, 2002a, b, 2005, 2006; Beatty & Brew, 2004; Leithwood & Beatty, 2007).

When teachers and leaders connect with each other in equal humility (Little, 1982) about issues of power and emotion, the barriers in their relationships can begin to disappear, as healing of old wounds and recovery from old patterns of interrelating from different positions within the hierarchy begins. I have long advocated and proposed and my own research is revealing that to put the emotions on the table, on the professional agenda within schools, is to enact a powerful transformational potential (Beatty, 2006, 2007).

More commonly, and typical of schools that need to undergo renewal, perceptions based on experiences from the destructive wielding of positional power have conditioned emotional knowledge that in order to stay safe, and retain membership in the professional community, one must relinquish the entitlement to internal emotional knowledge authority. Echoing sentiments expressed by McFall (1991) in ‘What’s wrong with bitterness?’, the second stance in the emotional epistemologies theoretical framework, emotional absolutism depicts the cultural constraint of emotions by expectations of judgement and censure in return for expressions of dissent which are positioned as the ‘wrong’ way to feel. Herein there is convergence with Zorn and Boler’s (2007) invocation to recognise that emotions are ‘publicly and collaboratively formed’. I have to admit to uncertainty about their allegation that leadership is only an ‘enacted emergent phenomenon’ and not ‘socially expressed or constructed.’ I have never seen the need to choose between the two paradigms. Could it not be both?

Still, the value of Zorn and Boler’s (2007) argument as I see it lies in using critical feminist philosophies to enrich our explorations of emotion’s dynamic complexity in our lives. While emotions may be collaboratively formed, ostensibly they can also be collaboratively and continuously re-formed through breaking the silence about them, and beginning to appreciate the power of ‘pervasive affective attunement’ which Boler (1997) considers to be ‘engendered attunements’. Citing Claudio Ciborra (2001) who revisits Heidegger’s (1962) conceptualisation of ‘moods’ and ‘attunements’, Zorn and Boler (2007, pp. 146-147) note,

Moods are far from being just private states. They disclose the

world; they set the stage for our encounter with the world … When

we encounter the world in a situation, certain things, people or

circumstances matter. This ‘mattering’ is grounded in one’s

affectedness. Hence affectedness discloses the world as a threat,

boring or exciting … In other words, our being open and

encountering the word, our being amidst people and circumstances …

are constituted within a fundamental attunement, the mood (original


Leaders who learn to explore ‘engendered attunements’ in themselves and others can move toward creating new and safer spaces for learning to learn together by establishing an ethic of remaining present to emotion’s shaping and reflecting powers in lived experiences in schools. For instance, ‘affectedness’ from encounters with individuals who are enacting the cultural norms of the school can create the sense that the world of the school is threatening or exciting. In creating a new culture together, one which engenders pervasive affective attunements or in Heidegger’s sense, moods that make the school world a place that invites and excites, leaders wisely attune to their own and others’ needs for respect care and support. However, given the likelihood that change agency will disturb comfort zones and evoke the sense of the world as threatening, leaders are inevitably wounded in the process, which can also engender their pervasive affective attunement to the world as a place of threat. The reinforcing spiral effect, such that leaders, even with the best intentions, get wounded and become threatened, and thereby become threatening and wounding themselves, can also be understood through the lens of critical feminist philosophy. Ironically for those who perceive themselves to be without it, the person with the positional power also becomes an emotional victim and, depending on a leaders’ preparedness to do the inner work required to go through the emotions to reconstitute their own relationship to the wounding space, they may or may not recover the feeling function at all (Ackerman & Ostrowski, 2002, 2004).

There is inner work required in order to experience an affective openness and curiosity in situations that would otherwise engender the sense of the world as a threat. This requires leaders to explore their private states, and recognise the connections between their inner experiences and the interactions that have created and continue to create them. This is the work of inner leadership that we explore in depth throughout the course of study in the Monash Master in School Leadership. Like the imperative to put one’s own oxygen mask on first in a mid-air crisis, leaders need to explore deliberately their own emotional horizons and the ways their relationships are shaping and reflecting their ‘moods’ in the Heideggerian sense; this for their own well being, and so that they may become highly functional in their organisations.

As Leoni Degenhardt (2001, 2006) discovered, the reflexive dimension of her efforts to reinvent her school for the 21st century was critical to their ultimate collective and collaborative success. Based on her experiences over a five-year period, as the principal and researcher Degenhardt proposes a model of leadership which she calls contemplative reflexive leadership:

One of the most important steps in a reinvention process is to

remain open to differing and/or conflicting opinions and to keep

searching for forums for dissent to be expressed and heard …

[T]he context within which reinvention occurs is constantly

changing requiring innovative responses to new needs and

situations. Moreover, the dynamics of relationships within the

community is of great importance. The reactions of people, even

those whom a leader knows well and with whom a leader has worked

for a long time, cannot always be anticipated. Yet it is the

quality of relationships which essentially determines the health of

the community and which will largely determine the outcome of the

reinvention process … This model acknowledges the need for

leaders, in particular the principal, to be in touch with their own

‘self, aware of their strengths and weaknesses, able to feel, and

therefore to empathise with others, able to articulate the values

which influence them, and open to their ongoing transformation and

growth as a human being (Degenhardt, 2006, p. 290).

The retention of the ability to feel echoes the work of Ackerman and Ostrowski noted above. The issue of empathy however, deserves further discussion. As I have argued elsewhere, empathy is not enough, and indeed, the notion that one can actually know what another is feeling is fraught with peril. By acknowledging the need to accept asymmetrical reciprocity (Young, 1997) we recognise the dangers of falling into the trap of believing we know what others feel. Only by exploring and confirming empathic hunches can we come close to knowing others’ affective experiences. Of further note is Boler’s (1999, p. 161) warning that ‘Passive empathy produces no action towards justice but situates the powerful western eye/I as the judging subject, never called upon to cast her gaze at her own reflection.’ The importance of humility and emotionally reflective practice along with actions that address misuses of power are implied here.

In contrast, to passive would-be empathy, when they engage in acknowledging ‘the mediated space in which differences and ethics are communicated, negotiated, and shaped’ (Boler, 1999, p. 21), leaders can learn to use their understanding that ’emotions are embedded in culture and ideology and embodied and situated in lived relations of power’ (Zorn & Boler, 2007, p. 146) to the benefit of all members of their school learning communities, including and perhaps most importantly, themselves.

The danger of ideology racing ahead and remaining apart from lived affective experience is another valuable caution to educational leaders offered by Zorn and Boler (2007), especially in efforts to understand and bring about school renewal. The ideology of the new school world can actually be more strongly represented in the rhetoric of the dominant discourse than in the lived experience of all of its members. People may go through the motions of being part of the new regime, while still experiencing their place in the new order in much the same way as before. Even in the belief that the school has changed, the sense of affective sameness may pervade. The feelings and sensings of powerlessness and shame (Bartky, 1990) from years of subordination to manipulative authority figures may persist despite the intellectual grasp that things are different now. Different yes, but due to the emotion factor, not experienced as different for them.

The recognition that ‘shame is not an idiosyncratic or an individualised phenomenon, but is socially formed’ (Bartky, 1990) helps us appreciate the nature of some of the challenges that leaders of school renewal face. They need to enact leadership which fosters social reformation of emotional attunements so that being in the world of schools can be collaboratively reconstituted. One place to begin is to explore the emotional dynamics that create the sense of school as threatening and confining.

Most of us will have experienced ways that emotions can be used for social control. In the process, rewards and punishments invite the embrace of an external authority over what we are feeling. When we allow others’ judgements about attitudes and emotions to shape our behaviour and even the feelings themselves, we accept a notion that there is a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ way to feel. Emotional absolutism, the second stance in my theoretical framework of emotional epistemologies, is a perspective which is prevalent in schools when persons attempt to exert authority over each other by showing disgust and disapproval for what people are actually feeling, rendering them ashamed (Scheff & Retzinger, 2002), silenced and back under control. In a similar vein, the use of emotional infection (Denzin, 1984), to fire people up with enthusiasm for a new initiative, can be just as manipulative, if this process is used to drive genuine feelings of anxiety and fear underground. This is particularly dysfunctional since these actual feelings will in all likelihood manifest in resistance in any case.

I have often argued that the relationship between emotions and power deserves serious consideration in the field of educational administration and agree that part of the reason for this is that emotions are indeed ’embedded in culture and ideology and embodied and situated in lived relations of power’ (Zorn & Boler, 2007, p. 146). Leadership that is practiced with a view to reculturing our schools needs to occur through connecting with self and connecting with others, one relationship at a time. The links between rived experiences of emotion and power–real and imagined–provide fertile ground upon which professionals can begin to understand themselves and each other and their social emotional contexts in new ways.

This is particularly pertinent in times of school renewal when the principal is attempting to re-culture the school for shared leadership. Traditional highly bureaucratic hierarchies create patterns in emotional responses in accordance with perceptions of power and the lack of it. This pattern can amount to social and emotional fallout from which leaders and others need to recover if they are to succeed in their efforts to collaborate and engage in bold self critique and genuine inquiry. This is not a superficial glossing over or going through the motions, but rather, the stuff of deep renewal. By going through the emotions, common ground in personhood can redefine the quality of new kinds of conversations. The emotion factor will be a part of whatever success or failure occurs, whether we acknowledge this or not. Thus when we put emotions on the agenda in the ways described above we can begin to explicitly recognise and consider them together as part of a process of social reformation renewal and redistribution of leadership throughout the school (Beatty, 2006; Harris, 2004).


I began with the notion of strange bedfellows–school improvement and school effectiveness–and sought to distinguish the intensification of trying harder and harder within current configurations of schools as we have known them from the concept of deep refreshment through holistic renewal of the ways we live and learn in schools, positioning this as something else again. For shared leadership to breathe new life into whole school renewal, all leaders, especially the principal, need to maintain a focus on the moment-to-moment emotional attunements that define experiences in spite of cognitive constructions and beliefs that may coexist along side of these. It is the process rather than the final outcome or ‘product’ that we need to envision. This distinction is critical. School effectiveness emphasises the notion of outcomes, improvement and arrivals at acceptable levels of performance, while holistic school renewal is a complex process, ongoing, continuous and cyclic. School re-culturing is never finished or complete, but rather consists of the myriad of social interactions and evolving relationships that must measure up to new tests every day. Putting structures in place that provide opportunities for meaningful collaborations is a place to begin, but it is the personal social, cultural and political processes that are shaped and reflected in emotional experiences which will continue to make all the difference. Leadership for school renewal is wisely conducted with humility and openness to new learning through continuous reflection and candid collaboration, the objective being not a well-oiled machine, but a webbed network of living resilient relationships that can continue to grow and renew each other each day.


educational improvement

leadership qualities

emotional experience



school effectiveness


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Brenda Beatty

Monash University

Dr Brenda Beatty is Senior Lecturer in Education at Monash University where she serves as Director of the Master of School Leadership program.

Email brenda.beatty@education.monash.edu.au

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