An autoethnographic study of the person in the principal's office.
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The role of a school principal is complex and multidimensional, and is pivotal to the success of an educational institution. It is widely recognised by researchers that the effectiveness of a principal depends on his or her ability to be a strategic thinker, create and share knowledge, build relationships, be flexible, embrace a sense of efficacy and nurture the development of organisational capacity. Through a self-reflexive, autoethnographic methodology I examine my ‘self’ as the person in the principal’s office within the unique socio-cultural context of a rural school for the Deaf. Through a process of narrative inquiry and reflective analysis, I explore the first steps in my leadership journey, my engagement with instructional leadership in all its complexity, and my quest for quality outcomes for Deaf learners. This autoethnography raised multiple levels of consciousness about my identity, my lived experiences as a school leader and the school as an institution. Through the interrogation of my leadership enactments key themes have emerged that have implications for the professional development of school leaders. I came to understand that my identity as a leader evolves continuously and that my leadership practices are negotiated and renegotiated in context. Thus, my identity as a leader is situated and produced simultaneously in many different contexts, events, and by different agents for diverse purposes My study highlights that leadership is not merely the act of an individual but is embedded in a complex, unpredictable, non-linear interplay of various interacting influences. Leaders are social actors who need to be able to examine critically their own subjectivities, subject positions and the discourses that shape their actions. Leadership is the site for continuous, ongoing processes of learning, and organisations have the potential to be dynamic, interactive and adaptive systems, reinforcing the notion of the enabling leader. Therefore, leadership development programmes should enable leaders to understand that their actions and practice are socially and culturally situated, and that schools are complex dynamic, adaptive systems.