Book Review

The New Work of Educational Leaders

Reviewed by
Judith A. Zimmerman
Assistant Professor of Educational Administration and Leadership Studies, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio

New principalship licensure standards and a greater intensity in the principalship make Peter Gronn’s book, The New Work of Educational Leaders: Changing Leadership Practice in an Era of School Reform a possible resource for professors in administrative preparation programs. Gronn is a faculty member at Monash University in Australia.

Using examples of organizational leadership from Australia, Great Britain and the United States, the author draws parallels among the systems for preparing and licensing school heads and the expectations they face.

Gronn highlights research on three emerging trends in educational leadership: designer leadership (producing leaders according to design specifications); distributed leadership (interdependency of the work roles of leaders and their colleagues in schools); and disengagement (inability of school systems to attract principals from among the teaching ranks).

The author defines school leaders’ work today as “greedy work” in that it represents a new kind of servility not unlike that of the bachelor and spinster educators of old. Although greedy work may be addictive owing to the profession’s increasing demands, the author believes it is unlikely that younger generations of teachers will embrace it as a career prospect.

Gronn’s highly theoretical work is not an easy read. Still it offers an historical perspective and a fresh analysis of emerging and sometimes contradictory trends in educational leadership. Anyone responsible for leadership preparation programs should read it before blindly embracing the new standards movement.

(The New Work of Educational Leaders: Changing Leadership Practice in an Era of School Reform by Peter Gronn, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, Calif., 2003, 176 pp. with index, $27.95 softcover, $61.95 hardcover)