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School leaders’ relational and management work orientation

Journal article
Authors Ulf Blossing
Mette Liljenberg
Published in International Journal of Educational Management
Volume 33
Issue 2
Pages 276-286
ISSN 0951-354X
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Education and Special Education
Pages 276-286
Language en
Keywords Leadership, Management, School improvement, Relation
Subject categories Educational Sciences, Pedagogy


The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the understanding of Swedish school leaders relational and management work orientation, in terms of both techno and socio structure dimensions. The background is the neoliberal policy regime, underpinned by OECD and PISA, and an increased focus on school leaders management work. In total, 26 school leaders in a Swedish municipality were interviewed, and their responses were analysed to score their expressed orientations in terms of techno structure (object and formal) and socio structure (person and symbolic) dimensions. The school leaders had predominantly formal work orientations, expressed in comments about organising teams, scheduling teacher meetings, shaping working routines in meetings, making plans and (in some cases) creating an infrastructure. Scores for object (goal and result) and symbolic dimensions of their management orientation were low. The results suggest a need to increase Swedish school leaders attention to object aspects, and both person and symbolic aspects of the formal or organising dimension, of their work. They also indicate the importance of establishing and communicating core symbols in compulsory schooling, like democracy and equity, to avoid external accountability pressures instrumentally shaping schools management. In contrast to previous research, the analysis indicates that Swedish school leaders have a predominantly formal and organising work orientation, frequently with little clear goal and results orientation, or attention to professional needs and motivations of the teachers (important aspects of person orientation).

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