Educational Management, Administration, and Leadership Discourses


Maintaining educational systems, including support of teachers and students

Principal Metaphors

As noted below, different models and conceptions of Educational Management, Administration, and Leadership Discourses are associated with different perspectives on learning, and so there are multiple flocks of association at play in the domain. That said, the current emphasis on “leadership” is in easy harmony with the Path-Following Metaphor of “learning.” Thus, while there are multiple popular synonyms for management, administration, and leadership, those arising from following cluster of metaphors are perhaps the most prominent:
  • Knowledge is … a territory/area/domain/field (typically involving challenge)
  • Knowing is … attaining a goal
  • Learner is … a seeker (individual)
  • Learning is … journeying (arriving at, reaching, progressing, accomplishing, achieving)
  • Teaching is … directing, leading, guiding, showing, focusing


Educational Administration, Management, and Leadership Discourses have to do with both the day-to-day pragmatics of maintaining an educational institution/system and the more-complex responsibility of seeking out, organizing, and supporting the talents of teachers and students. The three phrases do reflect different sensibilities, however:
  • Educational Management – a term with limited use in North America, but broad use elsewhere. Educational Management tends to be described in prescriptive terms of planning and directing the human and material resources of an education system. Constructs associated with the notion of “management” include:
    • Managerialism – a term that is often disparaged in education, where is it typically associated with hierarchical structures, rigid procedures, and expectations of control, accountability, and efficiency – qualities that many argue are not well fitted to the complex dynamics of learning and development
    • Management Styles – as the phrase suggests, the attitudes and practices toward decision-making, planning, and organizing work efforts an organization. A cursory search of the topic generated the following list of Management Styles (ordered alphabetically): Affiliative; Authoritative; Autocratic (Coercive); Charismatic; Coaching; Commanding; Democratic (Participatory); Laissez-Faire (Delegative); Pacesetting; Persuasive; Supportive; Transactional; Transformational (Visionary); Visionary. Associated discourses include:
      • Management Fashion (Eric Abrahamson, 1990s) – popular Management Styles, which may or may not be supported by sound theory and robust research
  • Education Administration – a term that is roughly synonymous with Educational Management (see above), but that has been in more popular use in North America. Some commentators argue it to be indicative of a less-managerial and more-person-focused attitude, pointing to the contrasting roots of “management” (based on a metaphor for handling or training a horse) and “administration” (from Old French aministrer “help, aid, be of service to”)
  • Educational Leadership (School Leadership) – a late-1900s term that has been taken up in place of Educational Management and Educational Administration in many parts of the world. The shift is reflective of a stronger emphasis on people (who are to be led), as opposed to schools or programs (that must be managed or administered). Constructs associated with the notion of “leadership” include:
    • Leadership Styles – as the phrase suggests, the attitudes, relationships, and practices that characterize one’s leadership – that is, one's responsibilities for articulating visions and goes, for developing and implementing plans, and or motivating and coordinating people. A cursory search of the topic generated the following list of Leadership Styles (ordered alphabetically): Authoritative (Command-and-Control); Autocratic (Pacesetting); Bureaucratic; Charismatic (Persuasive); Coaching (Development-Oriented); Collaborative; Delegative; Democratic (Participatory); Excellence-Focused (Coercive); Laissez-Faire (Free-Rein); Managerial; Narcissistic; Paternalistic; People-Focused (Affiliative); Servant; Transactional; Transformational (Innovative). Among these, a typology of three introduced by Kurt Lewin has been especially influential in discussions of Leadership Styles:
      • Authoritarian Leader (Autocratic Leader) (Kurt Lewin, 1950s) – a leader who dictates policy and makes decisions without input from or consideration of group members
      • Democratic Leader (Kurt Lewin, 1950s) – a leader who ensures a participatory climate in which group members are engaged in planning, implementing, problem-solving, and so on
      • Laissez-Faire Leader (Kurt Lewin, 1950s) – a leader who provides input only when directly asked, making for little or no guidance of and minimal interaction with the group
Visit Change Management for a more detailed review of Leadership Styles and their associated theories. More specific to education, contemporary perspectives on Educational Leadership can be grouped according to their foci. Examples include:
  • Instructional Leadership (1980s) – a type of Educational Leadership that is targeted at student achievement and behavior by focusing on teaching routines, practices, and methods
  • Managerial Leadership (1960s) – a technicist type of Educational Leadership that is concerned with facilitating the work of educators by attending to the organizational and operational functions of the institution. (See Managerialism, above, as well as Change Management.)
  • Learning-Centered Leadership (Student-Centered Leadership) – a type of Educational Leadership that foregrounds the experience of individual learners, typically aiming to increase and support Inquiry-Based Learning
  • Transformational Leadership (Transformative Leadership) (Kenneth Leithwood, 1990s) – a visionary type of educational leadership in which efforts to influence school outcomes are approached by engaging teachers and enhancing student motivation, morale, and ownership of the educational process
  • Values-Based Leadership (Ethical Leadership; Moral Leadership) – a mode of Educational Leadership in which the emphasis on the leaders’ values, beliefs, and ethics, which are assumed to be reflected in conduct and character – which, in turn, are thought to gradually pervade the system
    • Authentic Leadership (Front-Line Leadership) (Paul Begley, 2000s) – a holistic, consciously reflective type of Values-Based Leadership that is seen to reach across the personal, the social, and the ideal
    • Moral Confidence Leadership (John West-Burnham, 1990s) – a mode of Educational Leadership that is oriented by a consistent and persistent ethical value system
    • Positive School Leadership (Joseph Murphy, Karen Louis, 2010s) – founded on principles from Positive Psychology, a Values-Based Leadership approach that is structured around four dimensions: Positive Orientation, Moral Orientation, Relational Orientation, Spiritual Stewardship Orientation
    • Spiritual Leadership – a type of Values-Based Leadership in which leaders are perceived/expected to be of high integrity and to hold “higher order” perspectives (see, e.g., Constructive-Developmental Theory)
Perspectives on Educational Leadership can also be grouped according to their styles. Examples include
  • Collegial Leadership (Interpersonal Leadership) (1990s) – effectively, Collaborative Distributed Leadership (see below) with an emphasis on the creation of collegial norms among teachers. Currently, Collegial Leadership is among the most prominent modes, likely due in part to its easy alliance with the very popular Deeper Learning, and in additional part to parallel notions in the business literature (see Participative Leadership Theories, in Change Management.)
  • Contingent Educational Leadership – a pragmatic and reflexive style of Educational Leadership, emphasizing policies and actions that are tailored to situations (see also Contingency Leadership Theories, under Change Management)
  • Distributed Leadership (James Spillane, 2000s) – drawing on Distributed Cognition and Activity Theory, an emphasis in Educational Leadership concerned with how actions and tasks are spread across the organization and how actors are engaged. Subtypes of Distributed Leadership include:
    • Collaborative Distributed Leadership – multiple individuals focused on the same task and/or oriented by the same goal, working in the same place at the same time
    • Collective Distributed Leadership – multiple individuals oriented by the same goal, working separately and not necessarily aware of one another’s efforts
    • Coordinated Distributed Leadership – multiple individuals focused on the same task, working apart and/or asynchronously but aware of one another’s labors
  • System Leadership – influenced by Complex Systems Research, a combination of multi-agency and teacher-owned (bottom-up) initiatives within a networked system with some manner of Collective Distributed Leadership (see above)
  • Teacher Leadership – a type of Distributed Leadership that emphasizes teacher empowerment through, for example Knowledge Building and/or establishing a Community of Practice
  • Transactional Leadership – a leadership style in which access to resources (e.g., salaries, choice assignments) is indexed to educational services (e.g., teaching load, extracurricular activities)
The above discourses on Educational Leadership should not be considered discrete or mutually exclusive. Indeed, it is not uncommon for a school leader to enact aspects of most.


As noted above, Educational Management, Administration, and Leadership Discourses do not constitute a unified field. With regard to the purposes of this site, their foci, philosophies, and strategies are all over the map. For that reason, in the “Map Location” part of this entry (below), we have attempted to indicate affiliations with various discourses learning by offering appropriate locations of various discourses on leadership.

While aspects of Educational Management, Administration, and Leadership Discourses are rooted in issues specific to schooling, for the most part they are derivative of broader discussions of leadership and organizations. (See, e.g., Change Management and Organizational Learning. Many of the constructs there are nearly identical, and all the above sensibilities are represented in one way or another.) Stated more directly, the major academic and professional influences on Educational Management, Administration, and Leadership Discourses are not found in education, but in business and industry. That detail is particularly evident in the habit of most authors and commentators to describe models against an assumed backdrop of Managerialism – that is, a foundational principle of modern business.

None of that is to suggest that Educational Administration, Management, and Leadership Discourses are not profoundly important to formal schooling. Quite the contrary: a range of research studies around the world have demonstrated that effective school leadership is second only to in-class teaching for its influence on student achievement. And, of course that makes sense. Students who are placed with teachers who are well supported in a school that is run effectively might be expected to fare well.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences


Status as a Theory of Learning

We have not encountered any Educational Administration, Management, and Leadership Discourses that could be construed as a discourse on learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Clearly, Educational Administration, Management, and Leadership Discourses are concerned with teaching. While some are centrally concerned with prescribing and overseeing approaches to teaching, none that we have encountered appear to delve into the complex issues associated with pedagogy in ways that would warrant the a “theory of teaching” descriptor.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Stated nakedly, Educational Management, Administration, and Leadership Discourses tend to be more easily described in terms of ideological and epistemological preferences than in terms of scientific standards. Especially troubling is a tendency in the associated research literature to contrast models based on criteria that are clearly designed to favor one perspective over another (e.g., “teacher empowerment” is generally higher with Teacher Leadership than Managerial Leadership, but the ratings are opposite when “clarity of vision” is assessed). Consequently, as a cluster, we cannot characterize Educational Management, Administration, and Leadership Discourses as “scientific.”


  • Authentic Leadership (Front-Line Leadership)
  • Authoritarian Leader (Autocratic Leader)
  • Collaborative Distributed Leadership
  • Collective Distributed Leadership
  • Collegial Leadership (Interpersonal Leadership)
  • Contingent Educational Leadership
  • Coordinated Distributed Leadership
  • Democratic Leader
  • Distributed Leadership
  • Educational Administration
  • Educational Leadership (School Leadership)
  • Educational Management
  • Instructional Leadership
  • Laissez-Faire Leader
  • Leadership Styles
  • Learning-Centered Leadership (Student-Centered Leadership)
  • Management Fashion
  • Management Styles
  • Managerial Leadership
  • Managerialism
  • Transformational Leadership (Transformative Leadership)
  • Values-Based Leadership (Ethical Leadership; Moral Leadership)
  • Moral Confidence Leadership
  • Positive School Leadership
  • Spiritual Leadership
  • System Leadership
  • Teacher Leadership
  • Transactional Leadership

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2023). “Educational Management, Administration, and Leadership Discourses” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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