Journal of Educational Change

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 257–273 | Cite as

Leading authentically at the cross-roads of culture and context

Original Paper


This article explores the difficulties Hong Kong school leaders face in leading authentically and suggests that a key to seeking this authenticity lies in ongoing learning in context. It is divided into three sections. The first section describes the crossroads of reform and culture in Hong Kong schools by illustrating the tension between traditional values and modern reform demands. It concludes that the environment within which Hong Kong leaders lead is best characterized by hybridity and that this makes becoming authentic both important and difficult. The second section asserts that being an authentic leader is not a matter of adopting a model, a series of actions or even a set of beliefs, but is about engaging in a continual learning process. Some of what we know about leadership learning is discussed, as is the importance of accounting for cultural variation when designing learning approaches. The third section outlines and describes a set of generic leadership learning gateways designed to guide the development of authenticity. These gateways underpin a new programme implemented in Hong Kong which consciously aims to allow principals to construct authenticity.


Leadership learning Culture Hong Kong Reform Authentic leadership 


  1. Begley, P. (2000). Cultural isomorphs of educational administration: Reflections on western-centric approaches to values and leadership. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 20(2), 23–33.Google Scholar
  2. Begley, P. (2004). Understanding valuation processes: Exploring the linkage between motivation and action. International Studies of Educational Administration, 32(2), 4–17.Google Scholar
  3. Begley P., & Johansson O. (Eds.). (2003). The ethical dimensions of school leadership. The Netherlands: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  4. Bottery, M. (2004). The challenges of educational leadership: Values in a globalised age. London, Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Paul Chapman.Google Scholar
  5. Cheng, Y. C. (2000). Cultural factors in educational effectiveness: A framework for comparative research. School Leadership and Management, 20(2), 207–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dimmock, C. (2000). Designing the learning-centred school: A cross-cultural perspective. London: Falrmer Press.Google Scholar
  7. Dorfman, P. W., Hibino, S., Lee, J. K., Tate, U., & Bautista, A. (1997). Leadership in western and eastern countries: Commonalities and differences in effective leadership process across cultures. Leadership Quarterly, 8(3), 233–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Eraut, M. (2000). Non-formal learning and tacit knowledge in professional work. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 70(1), 113–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Glatter, R., & Kydd, L. (2003). ‘Best Practice’ in educational leadership and management: Can we identify if and learn from it. Educational Management and Administration, 31(3), 231–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Goleman, D. (2002). The new leaders: Transforming the art of leadership into the science of results. London: Little Brown.Google Scholar
  11. Hallinger, P. (2004). Obstacles to education change in Southeast Asia: Is there anything Asian about the process of education reform? Paper presented at the International Conference, ‘Making Change Happen: Learning from the Asian Experience’, Bangkok, Thailand, 22–24 September.Google Scholar
  12. Hallinger, P., Walker, A., & Bajunid, I. A. (2005). Educational leadership in East Asia: Implications for education in global society. UCEA, 45(1), 1–5.Google Scholar
  13. Hoppe, M. H. (2004). Cross-cultural issues in development of leaders. In C. D. McCauley, & E. V. Velsor (Eds.), Handbook of leadership development (pp. 331–360). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  14. Javidan, M. (2004). Peformance orientation. In R. J. House, P. J. Hanges, M. Javidan, P. W. Dorfman, & V. Gupta (Eds.), Culture, ledership and organizations: The GLOBE study of 62 societies (pp. 239–281). Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.Google Scholar
  15. Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.Google Scholar
  16. Lambert, L. (2005). Constructivist leadership. In B. Davies (Ed.), The essentials of school leadership (pp. 93–109). London: Paul Chapman and Corwin Press.Google Scholar
  17. Law, W. W. (2003). Globalization as both threat and opportunity for the Hong Kong teaching profession. Journal of Educational Change, 4, 149–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Law, W. W. (2004). Globalization and citizenship education in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Comparative Education Review, 48(3), 253–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Leslie, J. B., Gryskiewicz, B. D., & Dalton, M. A. (1998). Understanding cultural influences on the 360-degree feedback process. In W. W. Tornow, & M. London (Eds.), Maximizing the value of 360-degree feedback: A process for successful individual and organizational development (pp. 196–216). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass: Center for Creative Leadership.Google Scholar
  20. Leung, J. Y. H., & Chan, H. M. (2001). The school management reform in Hong Kong: Administrative control in a new cloak of managerialism. In B. L. Cheung, & J. C. Y. Lee (Eds.), Public sector reform in Hong Kong into the 21st century (pp. 229–260). Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Lindsay, S. (2000). Culture, mental models, and national prosperity. In L. Harrison, & S. Huntington (Eds.), Culture matters: How values shape human progress (pp. 158–177). NY: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  22. Moos, L. (2005). How do schools bridge the gap between external demands for accountability and the need for internal trust? Journal of Educational Change, 6, 307–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Nisbett, R. E. (2003). The geography of thought. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  24. Rizvi, F. (1997). Beyond the East-West divide: Education and the dynamics of Australia–Asia relations. In J. Blackmore, & K. A. Toh (Eds.), Educational research: Building new partnerships—a collection of selected papers (pp. 13–26). Singapore: Educational Research Association.Google Scholar
  25. Robertson, J. M. (2005). Coaching leadership: Building educational leadership capacity through coaching partnerships. Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research.Google Scholar
  26. Shaw, S. M. (March, 1999). It’s true. Asians can’t think. Time, 23.Google Scholar
  27. Starratt, R. J. (2005). Ethical leadership. In B. Davies (Ed.), The essentials of school leadership (pp. 61–74). London: Paul Chapman and Corwin Press.Google Scholar
  28. Terry, R. W. (1993). Authentic leadership: Courage in action. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  29. Tharp, R. G. (1989). Psychological variables and constants: Effects on teaching and learning in schools. American Psychologist, 44(2), 349–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Walker, A. (2004a). Principalship and empowerment: Challenges and limitations. In R. H. Ahmad, & T. F. Hee (Eds.), Principalship and school management (pp. 43–56). Malaysia: Principals’ Institute, Faculty of Education, University of Malaya Kuala Lumpur.Google Scholar
  31. Walker, A. (2004b). Constitution and culture: Exploring the deep leadership structures of Hong Kong schools. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 25(1), 75–94.Google Scholar
  32. Walker, A. (2005). Divided they stand, united they fall: Reform disconnection in Hong Kong. Plenary address at the International Conference on the Asian Experience from a Comparative Perspectives, 21–24 September, Bangkok, Thailand.Google Scholar
  33. Walker, A., & Dimmock, C. (2004). The international role of the NCSL: Tourist, colporteur or confrere? Educational Management Administration and Leadership, 32(3), 236–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Walker, A., & Dimmock, C. (2002). Development of a cross-cultural framework and accompanying instrumentation for comparative analysis in educational administration—research grants council (RGC) final report. [Confidential] Research Report, Hong Kong, p. 244.Google Scholar
  35. Walker, A., & Quong, T. (2005). Gateways to international leadership learning: Beyond best practice. Educational Research and Perspectives, 32(2), 97–121.Google Scholar
  36. Wong, K. C. (2006). Conditions and practices of successful principalship in Hong Kong. Journal of Educational Administration, 43(6), 552–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Yu, H., Leithwood, K., & Jantzi, D. (2002). The effects of transformational leadership on teacher’s commitment to change in Hong Kong. Journal of Educational Administration, 40(4), 368–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational Administration and PolicyThe Chinese University of Hong KongShatin, New TerritoriesHong Kong SAR, The People’s Republic of China

Personalised recommendations