Organization for Educational Change (OEC)

Book Review: The New Work of Educational Leaders

Book Review: The New Work of Educational Leaders


mr-books-4393-7039245-1-zoomBook Title: The New Work of Educational Leaders – Changing leadership practice in an era of school reform

Author: Peter Gronn, Faculty Member of Education Department at Monash University, Australia.

Author’s Profile: A researcher, a professor and a writer. Published books extensively on aspects of school, educational and organizational leadership. His research interests include all aspects of leadership, in particular, learning leadership and the development of leaders, distributed leadership etc.

Publisher:  Sage Publications, London in 2003.


Book Structure

Book is articulated in two parts: the ‘architecture’ and the ‘ecology’ of leadership. In Part I, three chapters outline a new building of leadership by developing the themes of design, distribution and disengagement, while in Part II author discusses in five chapters about What do Leaders do?, Leaders’ Committees and Meetings, Leadership Teams, the Emotions of Leaders and lastly Leadership as Greedy Work.

Part I

Designer-leadership means producing leaders according to design specifications. In our context we can relate it to the policy that unless one doesn’t get the M.Ed or MA (Education) degree he/she is assumed incompetent to become leader or principal, specifically in government institutions. According to author standards are very important to ensure quality in schools, but along with the standards, work context is also essential as it varies place to place.

Distributed-leadership means interdependency and coordinated work. This theme is presented as an alternative to focused leadership. According to Gronn (2003) researches show that it is the new trend increased after 1980. Distributed leadership is certainly a step up from one person leadership as we can see the work of head teacher is increasing and the responsibilities of managing the school needs to be shared.  This is also articulated by Arrowsimith (2007) that “Distributed leadership (DL) is an emerging form of power distribution in school which extends authority and influence to groups or individuals in a way which is at least partly contrary to hierarchical arrangements” (p.22). In the context of Pakistan, we can partially relate this leadership theme to private educational institutions or self-managed organizations.

Disengagement means inability of school systems to attract principals from among the teaching ranks because teachers are becoming unwilling to take on leadership positions is explored (Gronn, 2003). Teachers use to be in their own comfort zones and because of challenging tasks and responsibilities they hesitate to take initiative.

Part II

Five chapters explain ‘ecology’ of leadership in this part. Author asks, ‘What do leaders do?’ and then proceeds to offer a detailed synthesis and critical review of research findings since the 1950s across a number of different countries (Gronn, 2003). Then, author focuses on committees/meetings and teams, respectively to strengthen distributed leadership. Finally Gronn draws on earlier concept of ‘greedy institutions’ to propose that leadership is being reconstructed as ‘greedy work’, which demands one to be constantly and fully there. Although there are many aspects of this image that are immediately identifiable but there is probably some misunderstanding between ‘greedy work’, ‘greedy practices’, ‘greedy occupations’, ‘greedy policies’ and ‘greedy rulers and policy makers’. There is not clarity about what or who is being greedy, the institutions or the individuals.

REFLECTION/success & challanges

Distributed leadership is the theme which the writer wishes to favor and strengthen. Overall the book draws on a wide range of international literature by referring 471 books/articles. It seems highly a theoretical work. I must say that the themes discussed could be presented in a simple language but I surely agree with Hart (n.d.) who articulates this manner as “some authors seem to neglect the needs of their potential readers and manage to make  relatively simple ideas confusing” (p.10).


Arrowsmith, T. (2007). Distributed leadership in secondary schools in England: the impact on the role of the head teacher and other issue. Management in Education. 21(2), 21-27.

Gronn, P (2003). The New Work of Educational Leaders: Changing Leadership Practice in an Era of School Reform. London. Sage Publications.

Hart, C. (n.d). The literature review in research. Doing a Literature Review. London: Sage Publications.

About the Author:

Darvesh Karim is a senior instructor at Professional Development Centre, North (PDCN), Gilgit. He has done Masters of Education (M.Ed. in Leadership and Management) in 2009 from Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational Development, Karachi. He can be reached at

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