It is important that faith communities and educational organisations can learn from the working practices, structures and models of each other in dialogue. Yet whilst there is much to be learnt from the educational sector, the Church might be wise to consider carefully how it should conceive and exercise ‘leadership’ and what contribution, if any, the dominant discourses of leadership have in addressing questions around the exercise of power and prestige and promoting greater equality in its appointments.
Understanding how head teachers and others in formal positions of responsibility become designated as leaders through the ‘leaderist turn’ illuminates how leadership has developed into ‘a popular descriptor and a dominant social and organisational technology’ (Morley, 2013: 116). Establishing a set of leaders who are differentiated from other members of the staff within a school or educational organization is neither a necessity nor necessarily desirable. Considerable scepticism around the discourses of ‘leaders’ and ‘leadership’ might be exercised not only in the education sector but also by the Church as it asks what should count as ‘real leadership’ and what the appropriate rules of the game are.
These discussions are linked to the question of what counts as education. If paying for teachers is a drain and a burden, then, by implication, what counts as education could be seen to lie in the terminology of ‘investments’, ‘outputs’, and ‘efficiency’, resulting in a ‘carelessness’ (Lynch et al., 2012; Massey, 2013). Such carelessness might appear contradictory to the values found in Christian teaching. It may well be significant that it was in the religious schools in Ireland that the neoliberal orientation of the ideal ‘citizen’ engaging in competitive survival was countered more often (Lynch et al., 2012).