Dr. Alma Harris is internationally known for her research and writing on leadership and school improvement. She started her career as a teacher in South Wales and has held senior academic appointments at five UK Universities, most recently as Professor of Educational Leadership at the Institute of Education, University College London. In 2010-12, she was seconded to the ‘Welsh Government’ as a Senior Policy Adviser to assist with the process of system wide reform which involved co-leading the National professional learning communities program and developing a new Masters qualification for all newly qualified teachers. During her career, she has worked with various governments and government agencies around the world to assist with school and system improvement. Dr. Harris is currently Past President of the ‘International Congress of School Effectiveness and School Improvement’ which is an organization dedicated to quality and equity in education. She is currently Director of the Institute of Educational Leadership, University of Malaya, Malaysia and is leading a major research project focusing on leadership policy and leadership practice in seven systems in Asia
In this interview, which is part of an Esteem series focusing on the public scholarship of women in education leadership, Dr. Harris shares her experiences of leadership and underlines her belief that our conversations about school leadership can more accurately reflect the real-world practice of leadership if they are much more inclusive of women’s voices.
When we look at much of the writing on leadership, it has been argued, that it often comes from the male perspective. The ‘great man theory of leadership’, for example, characterizes those features and factors associated with individual leadership. In contrast, women’s leadership, and the books on this topic, tends to be a sub-set of the broader literature, almost taking a back-seat, position. As Gillian Hamilton said [in an earlier Esteem interview] there is not really a special thing that is “women’s leadership,” just a breadth of leadership practices and the fact that women leaders have important stories to tell. In short, this is not an issue of gender, it is a leadership issue, a global leadership issue.
This Esteem interview appears as part of a series that features experts in education leadership from around the globe. Recent interviews have included Karen Edge, Helen Janc Malone, Gillian Hamilton, and Andrea Stringer.