Leadership and organisational culture – recommended books

Click on the title or image for the link to purchase.

Leadership For Mortals: Developing and Sustaining Leaders of Learning 

Dean Fink

With around 50 year of experience teaching and consulting, Dean Fink knows more than a little about educational leadership. He brings all his knowledge, experiences and research on the topic of leadership together into this supportive and down-to-earth read, for any current or prospective leaders.

Fink describes qualities such as reason, memory, imagination and intuition as an ‘intellectual toolkit’ which we all possess. How we use these tools and how we develop them over time can change how well we can lead, meaning that the best leaders employ all of their qualities to be the best they can be and face challenges.

Challenge is the very first point that Fink makes within the book, the first chapter’s name. He believes that many leaders all follow the same cookie-cutter leadership expectations and guidelines without the flexibility to cover new ground in leadership. These people are technocratic leaders who value predictability. Fink wishes leaders to step outside these guidelines and face challenges head-on, such as trying to balance Traditional Public Administration, New Public Management and Learning Communities.

The book states many other things describing what it takes to be a truly courageous and effective leader including:

  • Commitment: Be fully and totally committed to a common goal with the rest of an organization is key.
  • Values and respect: This means standing by colleague’s decisions, having optimism, experimenting with new ideas and finding core values focusing on a balance of continued practice as well as change.
  • Qualities: As mentioned earlier, we must use our intellectual toolkits effectively.
  • Learnings: Understanding contextual knowledge, emotional understanding and critical learning.
  • Trajectories: Envisioning something new, and taking everyone there.

This book is a very enjoyable read and recommended to all leaders looking for motivation and inspiration towards their working futures. Here is a final quote from Fink:

‘’Leaders of learning are ordinary people who through extraordinary commitment, effort, and determination have become extraordinary, and have made the people around them exceptional… We touch the face of the future. Ours is a hope profession. Every little child that walks though our school-house door is a hope for the future.”

Leadership and Sustainability: System Thinkers in Action 

Michael Fullan

Becoming an empowering and sustainable leader in your field can be an often confusing or, at least, reassembly pressuring situation to be in. Practical and expertly researched by Michael Fullan, ‘Leadership and Sustainability: System Thinkers in Action’ is a powerful and informative book for anyone wishing to lead in a school environment, to create sustainable change and reform.

Fullan tackles ideas surrounding sustainability, and updates us on what we should be doing to improve on systems of the past. He states that ‘there is a growing problem in large-scale reform, namely, the terms travel well, but the underlying conceptualization and thinking do not. His powerful concepts show the true exciting possibilities that sustainability can give, and explains what it takes to become a system thinker (a re-newer and evolving figure in sustainability) through his Eight Elements focused on:

  1. Public service with a moral purpose
  2. Commitment to changing context at all levels
  3. Lateral capacity building through networks
  4. Intelligent accountability and vertical relationships (encompassing both capacity building and accountability)
  5. Deep learning 
  6. Dual commitment to short-term and long-term results
  7. Cyclical energizing
  8. The long lever of leadership

Every point is described in detail and tips on what individual and system leaders can do to maximize working ability are given through out. Leaders in a school environment, in turn need to focus on more technical problems such as assessment for learning, school cultures and relating to parents. ‘A sense of moral purpose is fueled by a focus on value-added high expectations for all, raising capability, pulling together, and an on-going hunger for improvement.

Development and a search for improvement in leadership roles is important and Fullan wishes to focus on tackling adaptive challenges for the future, enabling a happy environment and sustainable system for all. 

FISH! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results 

Stephen Lundin, Harry Paul & John Christensen

This short story is a wonderful introduction into organisational culture. Every teacher should have a copy and ELP has found it invaluable in engaging teachers into bringing fun and joy into the workplace.

FISH! is the story of the application of the principles that Pike Place Fish (a fish-market) put into place for their team. The 4 principles of Play, Being present, Choose your attitude and Make their day can be used to transform an organisation.

The Last Lecture 

Randy Pausch

This is a delightful little book in which Randy shares in sections titled ‘The Last Lecture’, ‘Achieving Your Childhood Dreams’, ‘Adventures… and Lessons Learned’, ‘Enabling the Dreams of Others’, ‘It’s About how you Live your Life’ and ‘Final Remarks’ many humorous and inspirational stories about life and living. We enjoyed this book and continue to ‘dip’ into it for pleasure and the reflective prompts and inspiration Randy provides.

We recommend taking time to read it aloud and sharing it as a teaching team or family. Our stories have the power to transform lives. Sharing them is important. Randy’s story will continue to transform.

The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything 

Ken Robinson

An inspirational book about finding your creative potential. Ken Robinson writes in a way that engages and draws the reader in. This book is particularly useful for teachers who are in a leadership role, or wanting to read more about organisational culture.

Leadership In Early Childhood 

Jill Rodd

This book is an essential read if you are interested in Leadership. It is very easy to read and offers practical advise for anyone and everyone who works in Early Childhood. Each chapter starts with a thought provoking quote and then a bullet point summary of what is covered in the chapter, making it very easy to find a particular topic or discussion.

This third edition has been fully revised and reflects important changes affecting leaders in early childhood: increasing flexibility required of children’s services, working in multidisciplinary teams, and an increasing emphasis on the importance of early education.

Scaling Up Education Reform – Addressing the Politics of Disparity

Russell Bishop, Dominic O’Sullivan and Mere Berryman

Written as a collaboration of voices from Maori descent, ‘Scaling Up Education Reform’ speaks of the loss of culture within schools, the disparities within the system, which hold our country back, and how the core of our education system within New Zealand needs to reform to rise above these disparities. Every child deserves to be able to participate equally, achieve and receive qualifications but this is often not what can occur. It is a sad truth that many Maori live with higher levels of unemployment and that their achievement can be witnessed disproportionately to that of other cultures. This book shows us that in our social systems, specifically educative, this can be overcome.

The book does this by showing how moving ‘towards a model for sustaining and extending theory-based educational reforms’ is beneficial. Also covered is:

  •        Goals and student achievement
  •        New pedagogies
  •        Reform within the school
  •        School leadership
  •        Spread and the community
  •        Gathering evidence
  •        Reform shift, changing culture and confronting resistance

Finally, the book finishes with how this can all be sustained system wide, and the governmental help that is crucial to having all theories succeed in practice.

Using the Te Kotahitanga development programme to explain issues and showing models of how they can be corrected for the Maori community, we can understand how to be more culturally responsive through this book, as it shows the best way towards sustainable school reform.

The Ethics in Loris Malaguzzi’s Philosophy 

Alfredo Hoyuelos

Basing his work on the documents and messages Malaguzzi left behind, Hoyuelos explores, in depth, his non-conformist pedagogical work. The book is comprised of the analysis of ethics, aesthetics and politics, to delve into the basis of new ideas and active principles of the Reggio Emilia approach.

The spirit of Malaguzzi’s philosophy and perspective on the way we teach, is through his non-schematic and creative techniques; breaking down the walls of constructed norms we become used to in the schooling system. He loved the unique. He loved fun, and wished every child to experience these factors while learning. So began the Reggio project, leading to Malaguzzi’s status of a man with passion and who ‘reconciled wishes, interests and pleasures’ of every child.

Malaguzzi teaches us the importance of listening, interaction, seeing the child’s true image and the fact that every child is an explorer; an interpreter of reality and learning.

The research also shows the wonderful belief in the development of teaching communities and building of a connected, creative societal future. In the words of Malaguzzi himself:

‘Relationship is the primary connecting dimension of our system, however, understood not merely as a warm, protective envelope, but rather as a dynamic conjunction of forces and elements interacting toward a common purpose.’

Hoyuelos writes with an extreme amount of respect towards this interesting man and his legacy, and this book covers every aspect of Malaguzzi’s practices. A perfect read for any who wish to explore the topic of his philosophy and self-directed, creative, environmentally based learning techniques within early childhood education.

All profits gained from books purchased via the ELP website will be donated to the ECE Leadership Trust. This Trust is set up specifically to support teachers attending conferences and any other professional development.

Stay Informed!