Book review of Beyond Leadership

Book review of Beyond Leadership

The first published Book Review of Beyond Leadership: A Relational Approach to Organizational Theory in Education now appears as an OnlineFirst with the Journal of Educational Administration and History. It is written by Taeyeon Kim (PhD Candidate, Michigan State University).

The review is positive regarding the contribution of Beyond Leadership explicitly citing that tackling such issues of theory and methodology in educational leadership – and specifically going beyond the dominant approaches in the field – requires “great effort and risk”. In particular, Kim notes:

Eacott’s specific theorization of leadership in my home field of education provides a useful model for in-depth epistemological and methodological inquiry about leadership. From Eacott’s performance in the book, readers will learn about the nature of scholarly work – how scholars can advance a field of study through theorizing, engaging in debates and justifying arguments.

There is a general approval of the approach taken in the book to providing some background before explicitly articulating the argument and then having other scholars engage with the ideas before concluding by responding to the responses. This enacted social epistemology will hopefully encourage others to do similar.

While the overall review is positive, it does mis-recognize some of the arguments of the book. The claim by Kim that “the main argument in this book is that educational leadership is a methodological framing – a way of being a scholar” is not quite right. If anything, the book seeks to systematically dismantle the idea of studying ‘leadership’ and instead seeks to re-center relations for the study of organizing education. Similarly, Kim’s claim that the book proposes four leadership preliminaries in theorizing my relational approach is not correct. Rather, I use these four preliminaries to argue for limitations in orthodox ways of understanding leadership and as the basis for claims that an approach focused on relations is more appropriate.

The description of Part II of the book, where the five relational extensions are each nuanced through individual chapters does capture of the core contribution of the book and the development of organizing activity, auctor, and spatio-temporal conditions as the three key concepts of the relational approach. Kim points out:

Eacott points to what has been overlooked and what is missing in the leading paradigm of the educational administration field. Thus, the book gives readers a sophisticated analytic lens that includes not only a dominant paradigm but also alternative ones with which to understand scholarship in the field.

And she also highlights the pedagogical value of the Tables included in the book demonstrating the relations between different approaches to studying organizing in education (e.g., logical empiricism, naturalistic coherentism, humanistic, social critical, relational).

The review concludes with the following statement:

… [Beyond Leadership] contributes to stimulating our critical and innovative thinking in the field of educational leadership internationally.

In addition to others citing work, Book Reviews provide useful insights into how others engage with one’s work. This is first of a number of book review on Beyond Leadership and I am thankful to JEAH and especially Taeyeon Kim for her thoughtful reflections on the book.


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