Tropes and tall tales: Leadership in the neoliberalised world of English academies

Matthew Clarke, Linda Hammersley-Fletcher

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Tropes and tales of heroic leadership are a common feature of media analyses and discussions of education. This reflects a cult of leadership and embody a widespread faith in the potential of “transformational” or “visionary” leaders to redeem our institutions and our society. At the same time a growing body of literature questions the existence of leadership as a phenomenon, insisting on its imaginary and rhetorical, rather than “real”, status. Against this background, this chapter is based on an analysis of interviews conducted with the senior leadership of a medium-sized multi-academy trust (MAT) in England. Our analysis, based on interviews with three members of the trust leadership, explores the imaginary constructions of leadership identity generated by participants during the interviews. In particular, we highlight how the hierarchical, competitive symbolic regime of the current neoliberal education policy context inevitably intrudes into these leadership identities. The chapter concludes with a consideration of the implications of these insights for leadership studies and practices.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTheorising identity and subjectivity in educational leadership research
EditorsRichard Niesche, Amanda Heffernan
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9780429032158
ISBN (Print)9781032173146, 9780367145293
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2020


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