ABSTRACT

Micropolitics and the inextricably related phenomenon of emotions have become important points to acknowledge and discuss openly in school leadership. The current conditions within which educational leaders must do their work, place them in an emotional vortex of perfunctory, and in many cases unreasonable, policy demands at the same time that the very nature of human development places high demands on their emotional awareness, competence, and ability to make wise judgments. A powerful area of research on school leadership has identified subjectivities within the micropolitics of educational leadership (Ellis & Flaherty, 1992; Greenfield, 1975) and their emotionally loaded complexities (Hargreaves, 1998; Leithwood & Beatty, 2008; Nias, 1996), and this research illustrates convincingly what goes on in schools. This chapter’s case (Pollock & Winton, 2012) depicts decision-making processes that involve power dynamics, policy tensions, and emotional complexities. The likelihood of conflict within and between individuals and various factions across the school system is inherent in this case. The roles of school and district leaders in the teaching and learning relationship reside in contested professional arenas. Instructional leadership is an essential, though indirect, requirement for student success; the mix of appropriate individual leader versus collective professional contributions is sensitive to the micropolitical context of each school and school district (Hallinger, 2003; Leithwood et al., 2002; Leithwood et al., 2008; Louis et al., 2010; Silins, 1994; Silins & Mulford, 2004). Teachers, principals, and superintendents may engage in symbolic rituals and negotiated bargains that can support student learning, or fail to do so (Ball, 2003; Beatty, 2007a; Blase, 2006). A deeper understanding of the inner workings of micropolitics “. . . sometimes understood as the study of how things really work, not how an organizational chart or a principal’s action plan would like them

to work” (Flessa, 2009, p. 331) can be helpful to leaders. This is particularly true if, as a point of departure in problem solving, they appreciate the challenges complexities and opportunities that manifest individually, relationally, and collectively (Leithwood & Steinbach, 1995). These understandings and the skill to apply them can help leaders ensure that they advocate for and influence improvement in teaching and learning.