We are in a time when there is an unprecedented demand for educational leaders. In the urgency of preparing our future leaders, universities can overlook the importance of practicing and emergent leaders knowing about leadership as well as constructing their leadership practice knowledge from experiences of being in leadership. Similarly, leadership preparation is inadequate when the focus of the learning is risk-aversion, managerial imperatives, and programs that strip the intricacies and uncertainties of being in a particular leadership context. Decontextualized leadership programs are harmful at best and lessen the space for critical dialogue surrounding the adaptive nature of leadership and the formation of organizational cultures which respond to the everyday realities of a local context. This presentation draws upon an ongoing phenomenological research agenda which focuses on the centrality of relationships in the preparation and formation of leaders, leadership and organizational cultures. Moving from previous research findings on the essential nature of relationships in leadership, the presentation considers a unique Educational Leadership and management program that has been re-constructed and is now taught in Australia and China with significant success.