Imagination as a catalyst for Relational Leadership: Educational leaders’ perspectives.


  • Gillian Judson
  • Meaghan Dougherty



imagination; educational leadership; humanizing leadership; relational leadership; equity


This research examines the role of imagination in relational leadership. Specifically, the following question was explored through a case study of a unique offering of an imagination-focused MEd program in Educational Leadership in a large, public research institution in British Columbia, Canada: How do participants understand imagination’s role in leadership after completing a two-year imagination-focused MEd leadership program? The 13 participants—all aspiring and emerging leaders in their professional settings—shared their developing conceptions of leadership, imagination, and the role of imagination in educational leadership. Participants articulated how imagination contributes to understanding themselves as leaders, engaging others with empathy, and building connections. The relational role of imagination was a dominant theme. According to participants, imagination is necessary for forming and enriching relationships, and reciprocally, relationships enhance imagination. Participants indicated how imagination supports their sense of belonging; imagination allowed participants to see themselves as potential leaders, and to feel they belonged “at the leadership table.” According to these preliminary findings, imagination may also create more opportunity in leadership. Overall, imagination emerges in this study as promoting not only relational, but humanizing leadership practices. This research contributes to understandings of relational leadership and highlights directions for future research. It identifies new directions for supporting equity and diversity in educational leadership and has clear implications for leadership education.

Author Biographies

Gillian Judson

Gillian Judson is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University. She gratefully works and learns on unceded traditional Indigenous territories, including those of the Semiahmoo, Katzie, kʷikʷəƛ̓əm (Kwikwetlem), Kwantlen, Qayqayt and Tsawwassen Nations. She researches the role of imagination in educational leadership, with a specific focus on leadership for social and ecological justice. Dr. Judson also investigates imaginative and ecological teaching practices (PreK through post-secondary) with expertise in a pedagogy called Imaginative Education. Her latest books are entitled Cultivating Imagination in Leadership: Transforming Schools and Communities (Judson & Dougherty, Eds., Teachers College Press, 2023), Imagination and the Engaged Learner: Cognitive Tools for the Classroom. (Egan & Judson, 2016), Engaging Imagination in Ecological Education: Practical Strategies for Teaching (Judson, 2015), and A Walking Curriculum (Judson, 2018/2019).

Meaghan Dougherty

Meaghan Dougherty is faculty at Douglas College in the Department of Child and Youth Care. Meaghan is grateful to live on and learn from the traditional, shared, and unceded territories of the šxʷməθkʷəy̓əmaɁɬ təməxʷ (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh-ulh Temíx̱w (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ təməxʷ (Tsleil-Waututh) people. Dr. Dougherty’s research interests include imagination and educational leadership, the complex relationship between education and the labour market, relational practice and teaching/learning encounters, and using relational and performative ontologies and methodologies that explore more-than-human entanglements. Most recent projects include: The Need to Get Somewhere Fast: A Critical Examination of the Transition from Post-secondary Education to Work (DIO Press, 2022) and co-editing Cultivating Imagination in Leadership: Transforming Schools and Communities (Teachers’ College Press, 2023) with Gillian Judson.




How to Cite

Judson , G., & Dougherty , M. (2024). Imagination as a catalyst for Relational Leadership: Educational leaders’ perspectives. International Journal for Leadership in Learning, 24(1), 5–35.