This is not just another textbook about educational leadership. This one is different because it presents and encourages thinking and analyses that are located in the critical part of the field. But what do we mean by this? Critical has many meanings that you may have come across in academic writing: for instance, when you engage critically with your sources, you evaluate and question them; when you are critical of someone's argument or approach, then it means that you have identified problems with it. We are using the word critical to mean a particular way of thinking about, and undertaking research activities connected to, concepts and practices such as "educational leadership". In this introductory chapter, we will explain what we mean by this "particular way", as well as why we think that using critical approaches is vital to understanding and explaining educational leadership. In order to do that, we need to characterize scholarship within the field that is not from a critical perspective, in other words functionalist scholarship, so that you can be clear about why this textbook is different and necessary.
In this chapter we also want to tell you a little about who we are, because as we'll point out in more detail later on, taking a critical perspective means recognizing that we — our histories, dispositions and motives as authors and researchers — are integral to the analysis and arguments that we want to make. Knowing more about who we are enables you as a reader to understand why we think as we do, and so make a judgement about how credible our arguments are.