Clones, drones and dragons: Ongoing uncertainties around school leader development

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This article examines a number of key issues around successful school leadership and leader development. Three metaphors are used to frame, track and analyse recent research and commentary in the area – these are clones, drones and dragons. Although development mechanisms rarely fall neatly within one category, the metaphors provide a useful way to examine some of the ongoing uncertainties around leader development. Clones duplicate what others think they know about successful leadership. Drones carry cloned knowledge and are controlled ‘from afar’ by centralised authorities or other ‘outsiders’. Dragons take organic forms which can mutate in terms of shape, colour and form in line with more localised needs. As such, they aim to nurture leaders who lead change successfully within their communities with reference to but not dictated by standardised knowledge. Issues flowing from interactions between these categories form a set of questions or tensions faced by systems and leaders themselves. Copyright © 2015 Taylor & Francis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)300-320
JournalSchool Leadership & Management: Formerly School Organisation
Issue number3
Early online dateJun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


Walker, A. (2015). Clones, drones and dragons: Ongoing uncertainties around school leader development. School Leadership & Management: Formerly School Organisation, 35(3), 300-320.


  • Leader development
  • Principals
  • Metaphors
  • Uncertainty
  • Schools


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