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Redefining leadership in schools: The Cheshire Cat as unconventional metaphor

Netolicky, D.M.ORCID: 0000-0002-5258-0890 (2018) Redefining leadership in schools: The Cheshire Cat as unconventional metaphor. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 51 (2). pp. 149-164.

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Moving away from the study of the principal as the central leader figure in schools, this article argues for an alternative narrative for school leadership. It draws on empirical data from a doctoral study to propose a new way of thinking about the school leader through the unusual metaphor of the Cheshire Cat.

Examining the stories of 11 school leaders from one independent PK-12 Western Australian school, including middle leaders who are often absent in school leadership literature, this article provides insights into school leaders’ perceptions of themselves as leaders, and their private processes of decision making. These leader stories challenge the notion of school leadership as an archetypal story of a central figure, showing that it can instead be quiet, subtle, fluid, and even deliberately invisible.

The visible-invisible Cheshire Cat school leader enacts collective vision, action, and transformation by acting as a deliberate and skilled collaborator in a complex, networked web. This reimagined school leader is one who makes careful decisions about how to best serve their communities, how to foster trust, and how to distribute power and agency, including when to appear and disappear, when to step forward and step back, when to direct and when to empower.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Copyright: © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
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