Keynote 11: School Leadership
School Leadership: New Contexts and New Challenges
Highly successful school leaders have been shown to demonstrate a number of key features and characteristics. They are optimistic, enthusiastic and curious, committed to social justice, equity and excellence, and they show respect and empathy for others. Also they are resilient, persistent, pursuing excellence and putting pupils first, showing drive and determination, courage, conviction and integrity – only the best will do for such professionals. However, research evidence also shows that given the intensity of their work, the accompanying workload and the high-stakes accountability cultures in which they work, headteachers and other school leaders suffer from high levels of occupational stress. It is perhaps unsurprising therefore that many education systems are experiencing difficulties in recruiting and retaining school leaders, especially principals.
Within this context of work intensification and overload, and the new challenges facing school leaders, their professional development needs forms the focus of this keynote lecture. It argues that greater attention needs to be given to developing the personal qualities and traits required for school leaders to survive in such demanding working conditions, new challenges and ever-changing contexts, and to ensure continuing highly effective performance: in other words to ‘survive’ and ‘thrive’. It is argued that there is a need for leadership development programmes to give as much if not more prominence to personal development over professional development – or what has been called the ‘propersonal’. Given the crucial importance of leadership for effective school performance, a number of strategies and suggestions are proposed to help make the work of school leaders more sustainable and to ensure they continue to operate successfully in such challenging and changing times. These strategies, it is argued, if implemented, would help school leaders to ‘thrive’ and ‘survive’ thus bringing many benefits to the individual leaders themselves but also, most importantly, to the schools they lead and the students within them.