To lead, or not to lead: That is the question. An exploration of understandings of leadership in the context of the deputy principal in the Lutheran secondary school


Ruwoldt, Merryn Jane. (2006). To lead, or not to lead: That is the question. An exploration of understandings of leadership in the context of the deputy principal in the Lutheran secondary school [Thesis].
AuthorsRuwoldt, Merryn Jane
Qualification nameDoctor of Education (EdD)

Twenty first century Lutheran secondary schools operate in a complex and demanding social, historical and theological environment. Leadership needs to be conceptualized in a manner which is appropriate for a fluid, dynamic learning community. Contemporary thinking about school leadership explores concepts such as teacher leadership, shared and distributed leadership. Successful school leadership is also perceived to impact positively on student educational outcomes. The leadership of the deputy principal in many school sectors has traditionally been structured on the basis of a bureaucratic, hierarchical model. Such models are increasingly perceived as unhelpful in the school context, yet in response, little has changed for deputy principals. The purpose of the current study was to consider the situation in Lutheran secondary schools. It explored the understandings about leadership embedded in the current role of the deputy principals. This was achieved by comparison of the participants' perceptions with historical leadership narratives. The key finding of this research is that in Lutheran schools, the leadership role of the deputy is often not as fully developed as would be appropriate in the existing climate, where schools and principals are expected to provide ever expanding services and fulfil multiple purposes. In many schools, the leadership role of the deputy does not provide sufficient training for succession to the principalship. Deputy principals are seen to focus on activity which supports educational leadership, but leaves them on the fringe of it. Deputies are often not involved in major teaching and learning strategic planning, vision and change management. This hinders their preparation for a future role as principal, but also deprives the school of a potentially significant source of leadership activity.;Deputy principals are seen to model the Christian ethos of the school through the way they interact with staff and students and their involvement in the devotional life of the school. However, in-depth involvement in ongoing dialogue about Lutheran identity and the church in the school is usually dependent on the interest and passion of the individual deputies, not inherently demanded by the role. There is also a limited understanding of servant leadership influencing the practice of deputy principals in the schools. In order to maximise the effectiveness of the leadership role of the deputy principals in Lutheran secondary schools, it would be timely to draw together key doctrinal statements, leadership theory and Luther's reflections on vocation, into a cohesive and practical understanding of leadership. This could form the basis for further development of distributed leadership in Lutheran secondary schools and help to ensure that they continue to successfully meet the needs of their communities.

PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Research GroupSchool of Educational Leadership
Final version
Publication dates01 Nov 2006
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