Unmasking School Leadership

A Longitudinal Life History of School Leaders

  • Ciaran Sugrue

Part of the Studies in Educational Leadership book series (SIEL, volume 20)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xxvi
  2. Rhetorics, Realities and Research on School Leadership

  3. Career Trajectories of Primary Principals

  4. Policy, Practice & Principalship

  5. Sustaining Leaders, Sustainable Leadership: Future Directions

  6. Back Matter
    Pages 295-302

About this book


This book is a longitudinal life history of the lives and work of primary school principals in Ireland. It provides a unique opportunity to peer inside the realities of leading schools in changing times. In a system that until recently did not prepare principals for the onerous roles and responsibilities, a small system with limited mobility, inter-personal relationships emerge as critical, frequently privileged over professional relationships. Consequently, principals struggle to bring about change, to build trust in order to cultivate a transformative leadership agenda, while several aspects of systemic structures and processes emerge as constraints on leadership capacity building. In the absence of comprehensive leadership portfolio development, classroom teachers, catapulted into the principal’s office, tend to be cautious and careful in ways that tend to perpetuate the status quo while putting a premium on the exercise of soft power and an over-reliance on the good will of colleagues. Several  of the ‘leadership lessons’ that emerge from this in-depth analysis concur with an increasing international consensus that due to complexity and increasingly performative policy demands, learning about leadership  for all is an absolute necessity. However, care must be taken to avoid overly scripted programmes. Critical to the cultivation of a professionally responsible leadership disposition, rather than capitulation to ‘technologies of control,’ is professional renewal cultivated through adequate attention to the Zone of Proximal Distance.


capacity building change and continuity leadership leadership for all performativity personal relationships professional relationships professional responsibility structural constraints systemic reform the realities of leading schools zone of proximal distance

Authors and affiliations

  • Ciaran Sugrue
    • 1
  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity College DublinBelfieldIreland

Bibliographic information