Becoming leaders: The life histories of male and female principals

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (M. Ed.)


Professional Development Centre, Karachi


The field of educational leadership has been a globally and nationally popular focus of research and discussions for past many years. In the same vein, a significant number of studies by the global and national scholars have explored different dimensions of leadership in education (Bana & Khaki, 2014; Bush & Middlewood, 2005; Khaki, Bana, Tajik, & Safdar, 2012; Khan, 2011; Nash, 2012; Panah, 2008; Simkins et al., 2003; Sultan, 2005). A review of these studies suggests an emphasis on the leadership practices of a leader and a very few studies have actually explored how a leader learns leadership and portrays various leadership practices, specifically in the context of Gilgit-Baltistan. To this end, the present study has examined the experiences of two school principals which seemed to have contributed to their journey of becoming leaders. In particular, this qualitative life history research explores experiences of one male and one female principals' journey of becoming a leader in two not-for-profit private higher secondary schools of Gilgit-Baltistan. The study revealed that the quality of educational institutions they attended, provision of leadership roles at home; on-the-job informal and formal mentoring opportunities, and ability to reflect on everyday personal and professional experiences greatly contributed towards preparedness of these leaders to assume leadership roles. These three factors made their transition into leadership roles smoother, easier and quicker. On the other hand, lack of mentoring opportunities, lack of quality education and discouraging home environment made their transition into leadership challenging. The study has shown the leaders in such situations learn through their own wisdom and reflection on previous practices. The life histories of both principals show the groundedness of leadership in the socio-cultural context. The male principal with early induction into teaching (paid job as a provider) had an extensive experience of teaching and leading schools. Similarly, the female principal had very protected environment with quality education throughout her schooling and university education. Though they experienced life differently, their learning and practices of building collegial and caring relationships and promoting shared sense of organizational policies seemed to be similar. Therefore, the study suggests that personal and professional life experiences (gendered), which shape leadership practices of a leader need to be seriously considered in the educational leadership discourse. Such consideration will allow much needed and relevant support to the female and male principals. Recognition and support to the efforts of female leaders, in particular, will encourage more women to assume leadership positions in the context of Gilgit-Baltistan. In addition, the professional development courses for educational leaders need to draw upon the life histories of potential or current leaders to situate leadership development in the broader social-cultural context of these leaders.

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