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In a rapidly changing world, educational leadership faces multiple challenges.

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

By Floyd Mac Donald in collaboration with generative AI technology

Educational Leadership

Are you prepared to adapt to the changing landscape and lead and manage your school to success?

Unlocking Educational Leadership Secrets

In today's rapidly changing world, educational organizations face multiple challenges. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) highlights in their rapport The Future of Education and Skills Education 2030 the challenges school leaders face due to cultural and social changes, emerging technologies, the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, remote learning, migration, and globalization. School leadership roles have changed radically in this changing world. There is a widespread belief that leadership quality significantly affects school and student outcomes. As highlighted by the OECD, schools should mobilize knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values to meet complex societal and workplace demands. These broad ranges of knowledge and skills should be mediated by attitudes and values such as motivation, trust, respect for diversity, and virtue.

To meet the educational needs of the 21st century, school leadership in primary and secondary schools must play a more dynamic role. Over the last two decades, we have seen the shift from school principals as managers to school principals as both managers and leaders. This is needed to lead and manage different individuals, groups, and organizations since different settings and times call for various responses. According to Daniel Goleman, leaders should have a multitude of styles to fit the context at any given time. They must be innovative, adaptable, and open to change when necessary. Successful leaders are more versatile rather than dogmatic. They could adapt to an integrative leadership and management approach of various leadership and management styles. In this approach leading and managing are part of a continuum of leadership and management.

Leadership and management in educational organizations

The literature and research will find various definitions and ideas about leadership and management. For example, concepts from Robert Greenleaf (servant leadership), Daniel Coleman (visionary leadership), James MacGregor Burns (transformational leadership), Bill George (authentic leadership), Henry Fayol (five functions of management), Peter Drucker (management by objectives), Henry Mintzberg (five organizational structures and managerial roles), W. Edwards Deming (Total Quality Management), and Robert Quinn and John Rohrbaugh (Competing Values Framework) and many more. We do not intend to describe and explain leadership and management concepts and ideas in detail. And we do not intend to advance one concept and idea over another.

But in general, we can describe leadership as individuals who change people's paradigms, create a vision, inspire and motivate people to excel, build trust, provide effective communication, engrain the idea that everyone has something to contribute to the shared goal, lead them by example and directly affect the flow of events and results. Management is concerned with setting objectives and ensuring organizational processes work harmoniously. This includes planning, budgeting, assigning resources and people, hiring staff, measuring performance, problem-solving, and making decisions. Peter Drucker describes it as ‘’leadership focuses on doing the right things; management focuses on doing things right’’. Rosabeth Moss Kanter describes leadership as "leading people in the right direction, solving problems and making things happen. You challenge people to achieve things they did not think were possible. They nurture a team that does the actual work, persist, and develop heroes out of all the people who have worked with them." Considering these perspectives, we can conclude that leadership and management roles, skills, knowledge, and competencies are different, but they have something in common and complement each other.

Since many educators and administrators are unionized, educational organizations have challenging management structures. They must navigate the complex dynamics of a unionized workforce in a knowledge-based organization and within larger governance structures. Education focuses on developing students and helping them reach their full potential. This requires a leadership style where leaders and managers collaborate closely with teachers and other staff members to create a positive learning environment to acquire new knowledge, skills, and competencies, and to learn from each other and become collectively committed to continuous improvement. It asks educational leadership to lead and manage an educational organization as a learning organization. This is where professional development, consistent, high-quality teaching and learning, a broad and balanced curriculum and continuous improvement are the norm.

School improvement

School improvement literature consistently underlines the importance of teacher involvement in decision-making processes and the contribution of strong collegial relationships to positive school improvement and change. It has been shown that effective schools have tight congruence between principals' and teachers' values, norms, and behaviours. Schools are only as good as those working in them, which is more likely to result in positive school performance.

Hallinger and Murphy mention that school leadership directly influences teachers' effectiveness and students' achievement outcomes (e.g., Hallinger and Murphy, 1986; OECD, 2001; Pont, Nusche and Moorman, 2008). As summarized by T. Huang et al. over the past three decades, a significant body of empirical research indicates the following: (a) Principal leadership contributes significantly to school effectiveness and student performance (Waters, Marzano, & McNulty, 2003; Bryk, Sebring, Allensworth, Luppescu, & Easton, 2010); (b) principal practices primarily affect student learning indirectly through developing teacher capacity and creating positive organizational conditions (Hallinger & Heck, 1996); and (c) effective principal practices include but are not limited to establishing a focus and vision, developing the capacity of school professionals, building a student-centred learning climate and fostering parent and community trusting relationships (Leithwood & Jantzi, 2005, 2008; Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2004).

To conclude, educational leadership and management can improve teaching and learning indirectly and most powerfully through their influence on staff motivation, commitment and working conditions. To improve staff performance, an integrated leadership and management approach can influence staff motivations, commitments, and capabilities (skills, knowledge, and competencies) and create the conditions in which people want to contribute by knowing their contributions will be valued and rewarded.

Practical Solutions for educational leadership

To create an inclusive, innovative, and adaptable culture and organization in education, an integrative leadership and management approach which consists of authentic and instructional leadership, change and project management, and system theory of education, among other characteristics, can help take several practical steps, such as:

· Foster open communication and collaboration between staff, students, and


· Provide professional development opportunities for staff to develop their

skills and teaching methods in a learning organization.

Innovative Technologies In Classroom

· Embrace innovative

technologies and teaching

methods to create an

engaging and interactive

learning experience.

· Develop a culture of

accountability, where employees

are empowered to

make decisions and held

accountable for their actions and results, and

· Create a supportive and inclusive environment where all students feel

valued and supported.

Educational leadership can ensure school success. Their effects promote student social and academic outcomes by supporting and enhancing teaching and learning conditions.


As the world changes, so do educational leadership challenges. However, it is important to remember that with every challenge comes an opportunity for growth and success. The key to unlocking educational leadership secrets lies in adapting to the evolving landscape. This will enable you to lead and manage your school to success. Educational leaders and managers can significantly impact student achievement outcomes by utilizing various leadership and management styles, collaborating closely with teachers and staff members, and creating a positive learning environment. Educational leaders and managers must remain innovative, adaptable, and open to change as we move into the future. In addition, they must be committed to continuous improvement and a learning organization. By doing so, we can ensure that our students are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and competencies needed to succeed in the 21st century. Let us unlock educational leadership’s potential to impact our schools and the world positively.

Floyd Mac Donald

Floyd Mac Donald BPE MSc MBA is the founder and principal at Mac Donald Consultancy. We inspire and coach clients to use an integrated and multi-perspective approach. Combined with an adaptive mindset and our integrated services, we identify and assist in solving clients' challenges and improving their business effectively.


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