Negotiating school leadership: New principals and experienced teachers work toward change

Marjorie B Perloff, University of Pennsylvania


Grounded in three cases in individual elementary schools, this ethnographic study investigates the process of negotiating effective leadership. A fundamental assumption here is that establishing effective leadership is not within the control of the formal leader, e.g., the principal, but that it is a product of mutually constitutive negotiations among all participants. These negotiations involve both the principal and the teachers in interactions that call upon them to use their own power and coping strategies. Initially, the participants use these tools to protect what have become comfortable roles for each group member. Participants' personal and professional histories, as well as the culture of teaching at each school, are explored. The analysis suggests that a model focused on understanding these interactions needs to go beyond the traditional one year time frame suggested by previous research. It also confirms that exploring leadership succession and socialization from the leader's viewpoint alone is too narrow a perspective for understanding these processes. Followers play instrumental roles in determining the extent of a leader's influence. The task of earning legitimacy within the work group is difficult, and for new leaders to be successful, all participants need to adopt a critical perspective and an openness to change that involves risks. Stabilization has been presented by previous research as a desirable outcome for leadership transitions. I argue, however, that continual exploration by all participants, not stabilization, is a more desirable goal for the change-oriented leadership needed to reform public education.

Subject Area

School administration|Elementary education

Recommended Citation

Perloff, Marjorie B, "Negotiating school leadership: New principals and experienced teachers work toward change" (1997). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9727015.