The tyranny of bureaucracy: Continuing challenges of leading and managing from the middle

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45 Citations (Scopus)


Fiscal efficiency and organizational effectiveness were the primary objectives that underpinned the reform of educational administration in New Zealand in the late 1980s. The consequent re-organization of schools and schooling located responsibility and accountability for school performance, teachers' work and student outcomes firmly at the door of local schools. The response from schools, as this article reports, was to devise bureaucratic solutions to deal with a complex mix of new tasks that were created; this included marketing, financial management, human resources management and strategic planning. One of the unintended consequences was schools increasingly became hierarchical and this invariably placed some teachers in roles of authority over others. Although terms such as 'senior manager', 'middle manager' or 'middle leader' have been variously used to describe these roles, an empirical project conducted in three New Zealand secondary schools reveals that management tasks and activities dominate teachers' work and that there is, consequently, little or no time for leadership. In the words of one participant 'the tyranny of bureaucracy leaves little time for leadership'.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-65
Number of pages15
JournalEducational Management Administration and Leadership
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes


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