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Leadership for Mortals
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Leadership for Mortals
Developing and Sustaining Leaders of Learning

First Edition
  • Dean Fink - Educational Development Consultant, Ontario

October 2005 | 192 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

Copublished with Corwin Press
 
"Overall, and as one has come to expect from Fink, this is a readable text that thinks outside the box of leadership theory... I have no doubt that the text will be welcomed by many readers for an engaging style that places human interest at the heart of the discourse in the field' - Mark Brundrett, writing in Educational Management Administration and Leadership 'It is a 'must read' for those in educational leadership roles in schools, both to gain invaluable insights and to draw on a framework for individual reflection." - Professor Brent Davies, University of Hull

"I enjoyed reading this book. The combination of critical reflection of his experience in the light of relevant literature makes for a lively and thought-provoking book. I was going to say "little" book, because at times I would have liked to have read more. But on the other hand, it is the sort of book one - the academic and the leader - could read in one sitting, enjoy and come back to for some ideas. I recommend you to do so." - ESCalate

"This book provides a refreshing alternative to the rhetoric about 'superheads', and 'mavericks' that has been prevalent in some of the recent discourse about leadership. Dean Fink draws heavily upon the work of Andy Hargreaves, Michael Fullan and his own research with Louise Stoll so some of the ideas are familiar. However, what makes Leadership for Mortals interesting is the way in which he untangles the complexities of leadership by using genuine examples alongside the theory. Dean Fink's writing is accessible and his anecdotal style should resonate with his intended audience of current and prospective leaders." - LDR, The Magazine for School Leaders

"This book is a welcome antidote to the notion of school leaders as heroic figures. Dean Fink's commitment to enhancing the life chances of young people shines through the pages" - Kate Myers, Times Educational Supplement

"With great wisdom and insight, Dean Fink invites us into his leadership stories to masterfully illustrate that school leadership is no longer a person but an intricate network of 'mortals' working together to enhance learning experiences for students. They are truly leaders of learning, where commitment to successful learning for all students is the locus of their passion, perseverance and persuasion. Balanced with connections to respected leadership literature, this lucid and eloquent book will inspire current and future school leaders to reflect and develop their leadership practice to higher levels of effectiveness. An outstanding and optimistic read for all school leadership mortals, practitioners and scholars alike. I enjoyed it immensely."
- David Eddy, Director, First-time Principals Programme, The University of Auckland

"Practitioners will find this book at the same time reassuring and challenging. Fink includes stories of leadership that highlight effective strategies and some approaches that have gone wrong. They are real and ring true and therefore credible and instructive." - Ken Thompson Principal, Gladstone Park Secondary College, Australia

"A great story about schools and their leaders progressing towards a knowledge driven world and the roads they choose to travel. Building sustainable communities of practice and the credible and varied examples of how the combination of leadership behaviour and enabling and disabling processes can make or break a successful school are clearly illustrated in Leadership for Mortals. A significant read for all aspirant and accomplished leaders." — Jenny Lewis,Executive Officer, Australian Council for Educational Leaders

"Dean Fink brings together a wealth of learning from his own experience as a leader and learner to provide some powerful messages. This is a well-informed book with a strong theoretical basis but it is also personal and real, making sense of educational leadership in a way that is both profound and down-to-earth. School leaders in the UK and elsewhere will find inspiration, reassurance and challenge in this book." - Steve Munby, Chief Executive, National College for School Leadership

"Grounded in solid knowledge base and profound lived experience, Dean Fink's Leadership for Mortals provides deep insights on how ordinary practitioners could become great and sustainable leaders of learning. Fink's book is not a 'quick-fix,' how-to-do-it manual. It stimulates us to reflect on education leadership both as a personalized, value-laden journey and an art as well as reminds us of the imperative issues of extraordinary commitment, effort, and determination in making a difference on leading students and teachers' learning. This is a must-read book for aspiring and serving leaders in the field of education." —Professor John Chi-kin Lee, Dean of EducationThe Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Leadership in recent years has become a growth industry. Politicians demand more of it, academics decry the lack of it, and potential school leaders are deciding "to hell with it"...we are making the business of leadership so complicated that we seem to need John Wayne at his mythological best or Xena the Warrior Princess to run a school.

Most educational leaders are not heroic, but rather ordinary people who through consistent commitment, effort, and determination have become extraordinary, and have made the people around them exceptional. Educational leadership is more art than science; it is more about character than technique; it is more about inspiration than charisma; it is more about leading students and teachers' learning than the management of things.

This resource for prospective and practicing school leaders:

  • Motivates and inspires
  • Addresses the challenges of contemporary school leadership
  • Presents a model for leadership development, selection, and succession
  • Challenges existing and prospective leaders to develop and live by a set of core values based on students' learning
  • Describes and explains the "learnings" required by effective leaders of learning
  • Describes the intellectual "tool kit" that leaders can develop
  • Describes the trajectories through which leaders proceed and the "learnings" required at each stage of the leader's evolution
  • Presents a template for leadership development and succession

 
Introduction
 
Challenge
 
Commitment
 
Values
 
Qualities
 
Learnings
 
Trajectories
 
Succession

'Overall, and as one has come to expect from Fink, this is a readable text that thinks outside the box of leadership theory... I have no doubt that the text will be welcomed by many readers for an engaging style that places human interest at the heart of the discourse in the field' - Mark Brundrett, writing in Educational Management Administration and Leadership

'It is a 'must read' for those in educational leadership roles in schools, both to gain invaluable insights and to draw on a framework for individual reflection' - Professor Brent Davies, University of Hull

`I enjoyed reading this book. The combination of critical reflection of his experience in the light of relevant literature makes for a lively and thought-provoking book. I was going to say “little” book, because at times I would have liked to have read more. But on the other hand, it is the sort of book one - the academic and the leader - could read in one sitting, enjoy and come back to for some ideas. I recommend you to do so' - ESCalate

'Dean Fink brings together a wealth of learning from his own experience as a leader and learner to provide some powerful messages. This is a well-informed book with a strong theoretical basis but it is also personal and real, making sense of educational leadership in a way that is both profound and down-to-earth. School leaders in the UK and elsewhwere will find inspiration, reassurance and challenge in this book' - Steve Munby, Chief Executive, National College for School Leadership

'Grounded in solid knowledge base and profound lived experience, Dean Fink's Leadership for Mortals provides deep insights on how ordinary practitioners could become great and sustainable leaders of learning. Fink's book is not a "quick-fix" how-to-do-it manual. It stimulates us to reflect on education leadership both as a personalized, value-laden journey and an art as well as reminds us of the imperative issues of extraordinary commitment, effort and determination in making a difference on leading students and teachers' learning. This is a must-read book for aspiring and serving leaders in the field of education' - Professor John Chi-kin Lee, Dean of Education, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

'In recent years, we have seen a deluge of books on educational leadership, drawing from corporate examples and theoretical ideals to unleash the power of school and district level leaders to act in ways that sustain deep learning. Through the lenses of history and relationships, Leadership for Mortals offers an honest reflection of the challenges facing educational leaders today. The various examples of educational leaders and personal anecdotes provide the reader with a realistic setting for the proposed series of learnings that guide and sustain mortal leaders.

I have found I have returned to this book frequently in examining my own practice, and in offering support and guidance to those I supervise, coach, and mentor. This book invites multiple opportunities to reflect on practices and behaviors, to act intentionally, and to draw from a range of leadership examples grounded in the practical realities of educational systems' - Deborah Gonzalez, Assistant Superintendent, K-12 Services, Puget Sound ESD

'With great wisdom and insight, Dean Fink invites us into his leadership stories to masterfully illustrate that school leadership is no longer a person but an intricate network of 'mortals' working together to enhance learning experiences for students. They are truly leaders of learning, where commitment to successful learning for all students is the locus of their passion, perseverance and persuasion. Balanced with connections to respected leadership literature, this lucid and eloquent book will inspire current and future school leaders to reflect and develop their leadership practice to higher levels of effectiveness. An outstanding and optimistic read for all school leadership mortals, practitioners and scholars alike. I enjoyed it immensely' - David Eddy, Director, First-time Principals Programme, The University of Auckland

'This is a book that will boost the morale of practicing school leaders all over the world. Written by a wise, distinguished and successful, but never the less mortal, school leader it relates well to the experiences of those heroic and sometimes embattled people leading learning communities. In this book Dean Fink draws effectively on his many years experience as an innovative teacher, school leader, district leader and now international educator and consultant.

His views are very timely. School systems and communities all over the world are happily making demands on school leaders that require some sort of super heroic efforts not dared to be even imagined in the comic books! Dean Fink talks about the way school systems are often seen to be (and hopefully inadvertently) undermining school leaders and the development of school communities. He courageously cites examples of this problem in a way that only a person of his experience could so authoritatively do, and many principals around the world will both endorse and be relieved that someone has said what they believe needs to be said.

Fink describes with clarity the frustration of many school leaders, embattled with reform overload imposed by governments and their bureaucracies who show little understanding of the reform processes they cite so often with inadequate understanding of the impact on the field.

He shares the view that leaders can invite communities to take on a better way, but that the uptake will depend on a range of circumstances. This is at odds with the demands of many departments of education that, in the name of evidence based improvement, harshly judge schools leaders and their communities on the basis of relatively superficial data and without a deep understanding of key contextual factors.

Fink uses examples of the actions of school leaders, the immediate impact they have and the legacies they leave. He focuses on the leadership of quality learning for all. He draws on a wide range of sources for anecdotes to which practitioners all over the world will readily relate.

Fink is a very credible educationalist who puts a convincing argument that we mere mortals can lead school communities effectively.

Practitioners will find this book at the same time reassuring and challenging. Fink includes stories of leadership that highlight effective strategies and some approaches that have gone wrong. They are real and ring true and therefore credible and instructive.

Many senior department officers and, as Fink refers to them, “technocrats” in education systems will gain a great insight into the problems a single-minded approach crates.

Educators will be better for the reading of this important, honest and courageous analysis of what it is that effective but mortal leaders can achieve and values and strategies that will move a learning community forward in a positive way.

Fink puts a very ethical view of leadership, a view of invitational leadership that grows from his previous work with Hargreaves and Stoll.

I think that most readers will look forward to Finks next book and the possibility that other experienced practitioners will be inspired to write about leadership to which ‘mortal’ leaders can relate and use to improve' - Ken Thompson, Principal, Gladstone Park Secondary College

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1 (pdf file 140kb)


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