The Unexpected Leader




Edited by Ian Gilbert.

Iesha Small’s The Unexpected Leader: Exploring the real nature of values, authenticity and moral purpose in education is for school leaders who want to make a difference but feel they aren’t obvious leadership material.

This is a book about people. A book that humanises school leaders and tells their stories. A book in which school leaders reveal their authentic selves and their journeys to leadership.

Iesha set about writing The Unexpected Leader as a senior leader who looked around and struggled to find role models whose experiences she could learn from. She wanted to speak honestly with like-minded individuals about being what others didn’t expect in a leadership package – introverted, unassuming, open about their mental health. Iesha did, however, manage to identify and interview nine such school leaders – and in this book she relates their stories alongside her own, in words and photographs, to explore how thinking or acting differently need not be a barrier to school leadership, but can actually prove to be an invaluable asset.

In doing so she shatters the myths and conventional ideas around who/what makes a good school leader, and champions a more humane brand of leadership which is true to the individual and still benefits the students and staff they serve. Furthermore, Iesha offers insights into themes such as imposter syndrome, integrity, failure and ambition, and frames them in relation to her own leadership journey in order to empower and encourage all leaders – including leaders-in-waiting – to step up and set out on their own individual pathways.

Each chapter starts by inviting you, the reader, to consider your own circumstances and feelings, before Iesha’s own experience is briefly outlined so you know you aren’t alone. This is followed by an exploration of the leadership journey of the interviewed school leader, featuring key episodes that delve into how they have taken ownership of their professional and personal lives. The transferrable lessons and practical takeaways from their experiences are then discussed in order to guide you towards more effective leadership, while being unashamedly who you are. Finally, each chapter concludes with a final message or thought from the school leader in question.

Suitable for anybody in or aspiring to school leadership.

Additional information

Page Count

200 pages

Book Dimensions

222 x 182mm


Paperback & eBook



Publication Date

January 2019

Click the button to buy the eBook