The Nature of School Leadership

  • Paul W. Miller
Part of the Intercultural Studies in Education book series (ISE)


The meaning of school leadership is an area of debate and contestation. No two schools are alike and no two school leaders are alike. From interviews with 61 school leaders of primary and secondary schools located in 16 countries in five continents, this chapter proposes to answer the following questions: “What is school leadership?” “How do you do school leadership?” “What underpins your leadership?” The research evidence suggests that school leadership has four dimensions, thus school leadership is: social (focused towards society), personal (leader’s agency), environmental and relational. The research evidence also suggests that school leaders do leadership through leading change, entrepreneurialism, partnership building and management, and policy management and implementation. Furthermore, factors underpinning a leader’s approach to leadership are: educational policies, teachers, school context and personal factors/motivation.


  1. Ashby, D. E., & Krug, S. E. (1998). Thinking through the Principalship. Larchmont, NY: Eye of Education.Google Scholar
  2. Ball, S. (1987). The Micro-Politics of the School: Towards a Theory of School Organization. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. Ball, S., Maguire, M., Braun, A., & Hoskins, K. (2011). Policy Actors: Doing Policy Work in Schools. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 32(4), 625–639.Google Scholar
  4. Bell, L., & Stevenson, H. (2006). Education Policy: Process, Themes and Impact. London: RoutledgeFalmer.Google Scholar
  5. Bennis, W. G., Benn, K. F., Chin, R., & Corey, K. E. (Eds.). (1976). The Planning of Change (3rd ed.). New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  6. Blasé, J., & Blasé, J. (2004). Handbook of Instructional Leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.Google Scholar
  7. Clabo, B. (2010). The High School Principal as Instructional Leader: An Explanatory, Mixed Methods Case Study Examining Principal Leadership within the Context of Rural Secondary Schools. Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee/Trace: Tennessee Research and Creative Exchange.Google Scholar
  8. Coffey, A. (2001). Education and Social Change. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Day, D. V., Fleenor, J. W., Atwater, L. E., Sturm, R. E., & McKee, R. A. (2014). Advances in Leader and Leadership Development: A Review of 25 Years of Research and Theory. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(1), 63–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dimmock, C., & Walker, A. (2005). Educational Leadership: Culture & Diversity. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  11. Dinh, J. E., Lord, R. G., Gardner, W. L., Meuser, J. D., Liden, R. C., & Hu, J. (2014). Leadership Theory and Research in the New Millennium: Current Theoretical Trends and Changing Perspectives. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(1), 36–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dinham, S. (2011). Pilot Study to Test the Exposure Draft of the National Professional Standard for Principals. Melbourne: Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership.Google Scholar
  13. Eacott, S. (2011). Preparing ‘Educational’ Leaders in Managerialist Times: An Australian Story. Journal of Educational Administration and History, 43(1), 43–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ferroro, D. J. (2005). Pathways to Reform: Start with Values. Educational Leadership, 62(5), 8–15.Google Scholar
  15. Fullan, M. (2005). Leadership & Sustainability. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.Google Scholar
  16. Gorard, S. (1997). School Choice in an Established Market. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  17. Greer, M. (2011). Dare to Lead: Continuous Learning Creates the Best Leaders. American Society of Safety Engineers, 56(6), 30–31.Google Scholar
  18. Grissom, J. A., & Loeb, S. (2011). Triangulating Principal Effectiveness: How Perspectives of Parents, Teachers, and Assistant Principals Identify the Central Importance of Managerial Skills. American Educational Research Journal, 48, 1091–1123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gunter, H. M. (2005). Conceptualising Research in Educational Leadership. Educational Management Administration and Leadership, 33(2), 43–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gunter, H. M. (2012). Leadership and the Reform of Education. Bristol: The Policy Press.Google Scholar
  21. Hallinger, P. (2016). Building a Global Knowledge Base in Educational Leadership and Management: Bringing Context Out of the Shadows of Leadership. Keynote Speech at the Annual Conference of the British Educational Leadership and Management Society (BELMAS), Chester, England.Google Scholar
  22. Harrison, C., & Killion, J. (2007). Teachers as Leaders: Ten Roles for Teacher Leaders. Educational Leadership, 65(1), 74–77.Google Scholar
  23. Hentschke, G. (2009). Entrepreneurial Leadership. In B. Davies (Ed.), The Essentials of School Leadership. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  24. Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  25. Holden, G. (2002). Towards a Learning Community: The Role of Mentoring in Teacher-Led School Improvement. Journal of In-Service Education, 28(1), 9–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. House, R. J., Hanges, P. J., Javindan, M., Dorfman, P. W., & Gupta, V. (Eds.). (2004). Leadership, Culture and Organizations: The GLOBE Study of 62 Societies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  27. Hutton, D. M. (2011). Profile of High-Performing Principals: Some Revelations of the Jamaican School System. Journal of the University College of the Cayman Islands, 5, 48–74.Google Scholar
  28. Hutton, D. M. (2013). High-Performing Jamaican Principals: Understanding Their Passion, Commitment and Abilities. In P. Miller (Ed.), School Leadership in the Caribbean: Perceptions, Practices, Paradigms. Didcot: Symposium Books.Google Scholar
  29. Knusden, H. (2009). The Betwixt and Between Family Class. Nordisk Pedagogik, 29, 149–162.Google Scholar
  30. Larsen, D. E., & Derrington, M. L. (2012). Calibrating One’s Moral Compass: How Principal Preparation Shapes School Leaders. Ypsilanti, MI: National Council of Professors of Educational Administration.Google Scholar
  31. Lewis, P., & Murphy, R. (2008). New Directions in School Leadership. School Leadership and Management, 28(2), 12–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lipsky, M. (1980). Street-Level Bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Services. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  33. Lumby, J., & Coleman, M. (2017). Leading for Equality: Making Schools Fairer. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  34. MacGilchrist, B., Myers, K., & Reed, J. (2004). The Intelligent School (2nd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  35. McCleskey, J. A. (2014). Situational, Transformational, and Transactional Leadership and Leadership Development. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, 5(4), 117–130.Google Scholar
  36. Miliband, D. (2003, July 1). Challenges for School Leadership. Speech to the Secondary Heads Association’s Conference, London, Tuesday.Google Scholar
  37. Miller, P. (2012, December). Editorial: The Changing Nature of Educational Leadership in the Caribbean and Beyond. Journal of the University College of the Cayman Islands [Special Issue], 6, 1–3.Google Scholar
  38. Miller, P. (2016). Exploring School Leadership in England and the Caribbean: New Insights from a Comparative Approach. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  39. Miller, P. (2017). Cultures of Educational Leadership: Researching and Theorising Common Issues in Different World Contexts. In P. Miller (Ed.), Cultures of Educational Leadership: Global and Intercultural Perspectives (pp. 1–25). London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Miller, P., & Hutton, D. M. (2014). Leading from “Within”: Towards a Comparative View of How School Leaders’ Personal Values and Beliefs Influence How They Lead in England and Jamaica. In S. Harris & J. Mixon (Eds.), Building Cultural Community through Global Educational Leadership. Ypsilanti, MI: NCPEA Publications.Google Scholar
  41. Murphy, J. (1994). Transformational Change and the Evolving Role of the Principal: Early Empirical Evidence. New Orleans, LA, USA: Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC).Google Scholar
  42. Papadopoulous, G. (1998). Learning for the Twenty-First Century: Issues. In J. Delors, Education for the Twenty-First Century: Issues and Prospects. Contributions to the Work of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-First Century. Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  43. Papaku Malasa, D. (2007). Effective School Leadership: An Exploration of Issues Inhibiting the Effectiveness of School Leadership in Solomon Islands Secondary Schools. Hamilton, New Zealand: University of Waikato.Google Scholar
  44. Reeves, D. B. (2006). The Learning Leader. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.Google Scholar
  45. Seashore Louis, K., Wahlstrom, K., Leithwood, K., & Anderson, S. (2004). How Leadership Influences Student Learning. Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement.Google Scholar
  46. Shields, C. (2004). Dialogic Leadership for Social Justice: Overcoming Pathologies of Silence. Educational Administration Quarterly, 40(1), 109–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sidhu, G. K., & Fook, C. Y. (2009). Leadership Characteristics of an Excellent Principal in Malaysia. International Education Studies, 2(4), 106–116.Google Scholar
  48. Waslander, S., & Thrupp, M. (1997). Choice, Competition and Segregation: An Empirical Analysis of a New Zealand Secondary School Market, 1990–1993. Journal of Education Policy, 10, 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Woods, P. A., Bagley, C., & Glatter, R. (1998). School Choice and Competition: Markets in the Public Interest? London: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul W. Miller
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Education and Professional DevelopmentUniversity of HuddersfieldHuddersfieldUK

Personalised recommendations