Book Review

Cultivating Leadership in Schools: Connecting People, Purpose, and Practice

By Gordon A. Donaldson Jr., Teachers College Press, New York, N.Y., 2006, 202 pp. with index, $27.95, softcover

When is the last time that you watched a remake of a movie and thought the second version was better than the first? For me, it has been a while. From time to time, a remake, or second edition, actually improves upon the original work in important and significant ways.

Gordon Donaldson, in Cultivating Leadership in Schools: Connecting People, Purpose, and Practice, has recast many of his important assertions from the earlier work and added real value in the process. In particular, Donaldson has addressed more fully notions about informal teacher and principal leadership practices, included updated research on the human dimension of school leadership, and extended the conversation about the role that interpersonal elements of effective practices play in successful schools.

It would seem that the market is certainly replete with books of lists and magic formulas for success. And, in fact, this book offers some helpful lists, summaries and illustrative models for practicing leaders and aspiring leaders to consider. But what sets this work apart is the uplifting and inspiring writing. Donaldson has been able to remain grounded in the challenging realities of today’s schools without being deflated by them.

Although many uses exist for his work, I can readily imagine a school leader offering this book as a source of study and development for the staff. Sharing a journey with Donaldson might be just the right prescription for a school community that wants to be successful in supporting each other, attending to the needs of students and finding ways to renew a commitment to what matters.

Reviewed by Zach Kelehear, associate professor of educational leadership, University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.