Piecing together the leadership puzzle : a self-study of practice.
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In today’s rapidly changing world, educational leaders are swamped by competing priorities that make inordinate demands on their time, energy and focus. They are consumed with operational matters such as teaching and learning activities, school management and administrative tasks and extra-curricular programmes, which leaves them with little time for reflection. As a consequence they put themselves and their schools at the risk of doing more of the same and achieving the same results. Drawing from the literature that suggests the value of reflection for leaders, I decided to undertake a reflexive study that interrogated my leadership practice. I searched for meaning to understand who I am and who I am as a leader. I desired knowledge on how and why I enacted leadership in the manner I did. Questions of what should be improved and how it should be improved were considered as my leadership practice was critically examined. I used self-study as a methodology to critique my leadership practice and generated data using the personal history narrative and memory work methods. Interviews with research participants using artefacts in a digital memory box, served as prompts to remember, reconstruct and re-story events as I co-constructed my personal history narrative. The multiple viewpoints that a research mentor, critical friends and research participants offered, challenged my assumptions, reframed my perspectives and validated the data in co-flexive conversations. Using the puzzle metaphor I describe the complexity, uncertainty, messiness and challenges I experienced in discovering who I was and how I enacted leadership. This study has equipped me with knowledge and skills to effect leadership transformation and get closer to the goal of self-actualisation through authentic conduct. Reflexive practices provided rich insights into my personal and leader self/selves and my leadership practice became visible to myself/selves and others for critique. Tacit knowledge became explicit and I was able to recognise good leadership practices that could be strengthened. I also became acutely aware of the weaknesses and gaps in my leadership practice, which led to the formulation of improvement strategies. This research suggests that for school leaders to become effective, they should engage in deep reflexive practice in order to explore their multiple selves to uncover the complexities, contradictions and nuances that explains their practice and at the same time serve as a catalyst for transformed practice.