The research that forms the basis for this article draws attention to a group of middle managers who are reluctant to become leaders because they seek more space and autonomy to stay in touch with their subject, their students, and their own pedagogic values and identities, family commitments and the balance between work and life. This reluctance is reinforced by their scepticism that leadership in Further Education (FE) is becoming less hierarchical and more participative. In a sector that has had more than its fair share of reformist intervention, there is some scepticism of the latest fad of distributed and transformative leadership as a new panacea to cure all the accumulated 'ills' of Further Education in England. Although focused primarily on this one sector in an English context, the article draws some inferences where there are parallels with wider sectors of public sector reform and where the uneasy (and incomplete) transitions from 'old' to 'new' public management have been underpinned by invasive audit, inspection and performance cultures. \ud \u
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