4.5 Power and equity within school culture
Lumby, J. (2012) Leading Organizational Culture: Issues of Power and Equity Educational Management Administration & Leadership 40(5): 576-591.
Though not solely focusing on gender, Lumby’s engagement with issues of power and equality in leading organizational culture highlights some of the challenges around women and leadership as well as why attempts to address these have been less than successful to date. She urges those in leadership positions to engage with culture as ‘a fundamental shaping and disciplinary force on which organizations depend’ (p.581) because a ‘greater understanding of culture may be the most sustainable tool to enable leaders to make persistent adjustments more authentically to relate to the cultures in their organization’ (p.587). Drawing on Bates (2006), she argues ‘a further imperative to consider culture is the premise that it is deeply implicated in the different and unequal experience of learners and consequently strongly related to a goal of educational leadership, contributing to social justice’ (p.577).
Lumby recognises the pressures on leaders in UK schools only to value knowledge and understanding which appear to provide a quick impact and notes that it is not easy for them to engage with culture, as ‘the deeper and more critical the analysis, the more paralysing the results appear to be’ (p.586). Combining Sailes’s (2008) illustration of how teaching is culturally laden with Bates (2006), Lumby critiques the move to a corporate culture developed in the 1980s and 1990s in which leaders and managers are encouraged to see ‘culture’ in simplistic ways involving them in creating a mono-lithic culture within their organizations (see Kotter and Heskett, 1992; Peters and Waterman, 1982), something which ‘has been taken up enthusiastically in education’ (p.580).
Yet culture is much more complex and far less controllable than those corporatist writers suggested, particularly when leaders are seeking to promote greater equity and social justice. It involves recognising four levels of cultural activity; namely, the cultural context created by global phenomena, the cultures of local communities, the organizational culture, and the sub- and counter-cultures of staff and student groups. The different levels uncover implicit and tacit aspects of culture which go beyond those more visible and explicit manifestations of culture which have the allure of being something seemingly that a leader can shape though his (or her) own agency (Archer, 2005; Hofstede, 1984; Schein, 2001).