A poietic for leaders : engaging the moral imagination in educational leadership
This study examined the role of imagination in educational leadership through an investigation of the creative (poietic) process exercised by formal and informal leaders in two schools. The purpose of the study was to explore the ways in which school leaders utilized poietic elements in their leadership practice. The three research questions that guided the research addressed (a) what poietic elements were engaged by educational leaders, (b) how those elements were engaged, and (c) the nature of the moral discourse created by the poietic process. The conceptual framework informing the research proposed that four imaginative elements--stereoscopic vision, metaphor, narrative, and irony--were employed by leaders to create a "room" within which effective moral discourse could occur. Two public schools were selected for a comparative, exploratory case study. The researcher spent twenty days in participant observation at each school over a period of six months. During that time, interviews were conducted with the identified formal and informal leaders in each school. The results of the study were reported in the form of episodal narratives which exemplified the engagement of the poietic elements by school leaders. The study revealed that the four poietic elements were actively and effectively employed by leaders in the two schools; however, there were clear differences in the ways in which these elements were employed. Furthermore, the nature of the rooms created by these leaders was influenced by the ways in which these elements were employed. The level of moral discourse in each room was perceived to be influenced by the propensity of leaders to engage the poietic elements. The results indicated that the predilection of participants to interact with the poietic elements was influenced by cultural and historical factors as well as by the attitudes of the school principal. The study also suggested that effective engagement with the poietic elements involved an aesthetic-poietic reciprocity on the part of the participants in the room. The poietic elements were not effective in the absence of a manifest appreciation on the part of the other participants in the room. The importance of this reciprocity was especially evident in the exercise of irony among the participants; however, it was clearly evident in each of the four elements. The aesthetic (appreciative) roles of the school principals were perceived to be of equal importance to their poietic (creative) roles. Several implications for the theory and practice of leadership emerged from the study. The results suggested that the inclusion of an imaginative domain in the conceptualization of leadership might enhance the level of moral discourse in schools and, therefore, provide educators with more effective ways of moving from theory to practice. Similarly, the inclusion of an artistic domain in formal leadership training programs might increase the effectiveness of leadership praxis. Finally, the author suggested that artistic leadership research might lead to a richer understanding of educational leadership.