Notes Lecture Stephen Dinham

How and why have thinking and approaches to leadership and educational leadership changed? What impact does leadership have on student outcomes?

Emeritus Professor Stephen Dinham, Leading Learning and Teaching

This was a really interesting overview of Leadership theories and information of what effective leadership looks like in Education. (Sat, May 22, 2021)3

  • My own definition for my leadership: Build capacity in people to be the best teacher they can be so their students love learning
  • Leadership is a group process. Leadership can be learned and developed. It is available to everybody.
  • Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal. You can observe it and learn it.
  • Process means not a trait or characteristic but a transaction and implies that a leader affects and is affected by followers. Leadership is thus interactive and available to everyone.
  • Influence is concerned with how the leader affects followers.
Difference between management and leadership
Management: Produces Order and Consistency

Planning and Budgeting

•        Establish agendas

•        Set timetables

•        Allocate resources

Organising and Staffing

•        Provide structure

•        Make job placements

•        Establish rules and procedures

Controlling and Problem Solving

•        Develop incentives

•        Generate creative solutions

•        Take corrective action

Leadership: Produces Change and Movement

Establishing Direction

–       Create a vision

–       Clarify big picture

–       Set strategies

Aligning People

–       Communicate goals

–       Seek commitment

–       Build teams and coalitions

Motivating and Inspiring

–       Inspire and energise

–       Empower subordinates

–       Satisfy unmet needs

One Large Study: Day et al  (2009)

Day, C.; Sammons, P.; Hopkins, D.; Harris, A.; Leithwood, K.; Qing, G.; Brown, E.; Ahtaridou, E. and Kington, A. (2009).  The Impact of School Leadership on Pupil Outcomes.  Nottingham: University of Nottingham.

“The Effective Leadership and Pupil Outcomes Project is the largest and most extensive study of contemporary leadership to be conducted in England to date. Its sampling methods and innovative mixed methods design have enabled it to examine the work of head teachers and other school leaders in a range of primary and secondary schools nationally.

The study focussed on schools that were identified to have significantly raised pupil attainment levels over a relatively short three year period (2003-2005). … Through a combination of statistical analysis of national data sets on pupils’ attainment three groups of schools were identified, all of which had made sustained improvements in academic outcomes but from different starting points. Low start, Moderate start and High start.” (Day et al., 2009:  1)

Six General Findings

  1. There are statistically significant empirical and qualitatively robust associations between heads’ educational values, qualities and their strategic actions and improvement in school conditions leading to improvements in pupil outcomes.
  2. There are similarities between the effects of leadership practices on improvements in school conditions in Primary and Secondary schools in the study. However, the leadership of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) has a more direct influence upon learning and teaching standards in Primary schools than Secondary schools.
  3. There is no single model of the practice of effective leadership. However, it is possible to identify a common repertoire of broad educational values, personal and interpersonal qualities, dispositions, competencies, decision making processes and a range of internal and external strategic actions which all effective heads in the study possess and use.
  4. Such a common repertoire is necessary but insufficient in itself to secure effectiveness. It is the particular combinations of strategies based upon the heads’ diagnoses of individuals, the needs of schools at different phases of performance development and national policy imperatives which are influential in promoting improved student outcomes.
  5. These strategies are underpinned by clearly articulated sets of values which focus upon promoting individual and social well-being and raising standards of achievement for all pupils. Taken together these effect cultural change as well as changes in school classroom practices.
  6. The research indicates that there are significant differences in the intensity of actions and the use of certain strategies between schools in the Low start and High start groups especially in the secondary sector. A greater emphasis was given to the use of data for the improvement of teaching and learning conditions and classroom observation by schools in the Low start group.

Implications: 10 Findings

  1. Headteachers are perceived as the main source of leadership by staff, governors and parents. Their educational values, strategic intelligence, and leadership strategies shape the school and classroom processes and practices which result in improved pupil outcomes.
  2. Successful school leaders improve teaching and learning and thus pupil outcomes indirectly and most powerfully through their influence on staff motivation, commitment, teaching practices and through developing teachers’ capacities for leadership.
  3. Successful leaders draw on the same repertoire of basic leadership values, qualities and practices.
  4. Effective leaders apply strategies in ways that are sensitive to school and student background characteristics, to nationally defined needs and to their core educational ideals for maximising pupils’ achievement across a range of academic, social and personal competencies.
  5. In schools in more challenging contexts, heads give greater attention to establishing, maintaining and sustaining school wide policies for pupil behaviour, motivation and engagement, teaching standards, the physical environments, improvements in the quality of teaching and learning and establishing cultures of care and achievement.
  6. Effective heads lead and manage improvement through ‘layered leadership’ strategies within and across three broad improvement phases.

In the early phase, heads prioritised: i) improving the physical environment of the school in order to create more positive, supportive conditions for teaching and learning, teachers and pupils’; ii) setting, clearly communicating and ensuring implementation of school-wide standards for pupil behaviour; iii) restructuring the senior leadership team and its roles and responsibilities; and iv) implementing performance management systems and CPD opportunities for all staff.

In the middle phase, heads prioritised: i) a more regular and focussed use of data as a means of informing decision making related to pupils’ progress and achievement. Whilst there were differences in timing and emphasis between sectors, in general this had the effect of distributing leadership more and led to the development of a set of organisational values; and ii ) the wider distribution of leadership roles and responsibilities. Using learning objectives and target setting were important parts of the practices in all case study schools.

In the later phase, key strategies related to personalising and enriching the curriculum, as well as to continuing the wider distribution of leadership. In schools in more challenging contexts, in the early phase heads gave greater attention to establishing, maintaining and sustaining school wide policies for pupil behaviour, improvements to the physical environment and improvements in the quality of teaching and learning than in other schools.

  1. There are positive associations between the increased distribution of leadership roles and responsibilities and the continuing improvement of pupil outcomes.
  2. Leadership trust and trustworthiness are prerequisites for the progressive and effective distribution of leadership. Trust and improvement develop in a reciprocal way over time and are reinforced by evidence of improvements. Trust and the distribution of leadership evolve and differ by organisational context, history and the heads’ diagnosis of need.
  3. Effective leaders continuously seek to engage parents and the wider community as active allies in improving pupil outcomes. This is especially the case with heads of schools which serve disadvantaged communities.
  4. The sustainable transformation of a school is the outcome of effective leadership. Effective leadership results in the improvement of physical, psychological and social conditions for teaching and learning, raised aspirations of staff, students and communities and the improved achievement of all pupils.

Doing the same thing …

  • Dinham, S. (2007). Leadership for Exceptional Educational Outcomes. See also Dinham, 2016, ch 10.

Findings From the ÆSOP Study: Principals and other leaders facilitate quality teaching, student achievement and school renewal and improvement through

External Awareness and Engagement

  • Openness to Change and Opportunity
  • Develop Productive External Links
  • A Bias Towards Innovation and Action
  • Using Discretion, Bending Rules, Procedures
  • Bias to Experimentation, Risk Taking

Personal Qualities and Relationships

  • Leaders have positive attitudes which are contagious
  • Intellectual Capacity
  • Moral Leadership
  • Assist, Feedback, Listen to Staff
  • Treat staff, others professionally
  • Expect high standard of professionalism in return
  • Model professionalism
  • Others don’t want to “let down”
  • Provide professional, pleasant facilities

Personal Qualities and Relationships

  • High level interpersonal skills
  • Generally liked, respected, trusted
  • Knows, use names, shows personal interest
  • Demonstrates empathy, compassion
  • Available at short notice when needed
  • Epitomises the “servant leader”, yet unmistakably in control
  • Work for school , students, staff, education, rather than for themselves.

Vision, Expectations, Culture of Success

  • “Expect a lot, give a lot” (highly responsive, highly demanding – see later)
  • Clear, agreed, high standards
  • The standard things done well
  • Recognition of student, staff Achievement
  • Creates a culture, expectation of success

“Leadership is more like gardening than it is mechanics”

Teacher Learning, Responsibility and Trust

  • Investment in Teacher Learning
  • All Teachers can be Leaders
  • Be a talent spotter!
  • Responsibility recognition, empowerment, staff development
  • Trust an aspect of mutual respect
  • Student Support, Common Purpose, Collaboration
  • Centrality of Student Welfare
  • Support by leaders essential

Leaders Find Common Purpose

  • Pockets of like-minded staff, collaboration

Focus on Students, Learning and Teaching

  • Focus on students as people (personal, academic, social)
  • Teaching and learning prime focus of school
  • Creates an environment where teaching and learning can occur
  • Focus on Students, Learning and Teaching

Leadership Takes Time

  • Leaders Build on What is There
  • Consistency, Yet Flexibility in Policy
  • Evidence based practice
  • Stand for Something!

Aspects to leadership:

  • Highly responsive to people and events
  • Highly demanding of self and others
  • Principals and other leaders help create conditions, climate, where success can occur.
  • Characteristics both product (output) and process (input) variables leading to upwards cycle of success.
  • Relative impact of leadership dimensions (Robinson et al, 2008)

Leadership is Important

  • “The more leaders focus their influence, their learning, and their relationships with teachers on the core business of teaching and learning, the greater their influence on student outcomes.” (Robinson, Lloyd & Rowe, 2008).
  • “Instructional leadership refers to those principals who have their major focus on creating a learning climate free of disruption, a system of clear teaching objectives, and high teacher expectations for teachers and students. … It is school leaders who promote challenging goals, and then establish safe environments for teachers to critique, question and support other teachers to reach these goals together that have the most effect on student outcomes.” (Hattie, 2009).
  • “Ask anyone who has had one or more years working in a school whether leadership has made a difference in their work and the answer will be an unhesitating ‘Yes’. No matter who the respondent is … they all seem to know good (and bad) leadership when they experience it.” (Wahlstrom & Louis, 2008).
  • “Leadership matters and is changing … School leadership needs to be smart; it needs to be evidence-based and shared.” (Mulford, 2008)
  • “I … advance the following three arguments. First, leadership matters …Second, leadership is inclusive …Third, leadership practices can be taught and learned.” (Reeves, 2008)
  • “Today, the prime focus for any educational leader must be on the academic, personal and social advancement of his or her students. Everything done in a school should be geared to impact in some way on facilitating student achievement, the true core business of teachers and schools. … The challenge for educational leaders is thus to make things happen in their school and to penetrate the often closed classroom door. While principals are important leaders, they are not the only leaders in schools. Other leaders, formal and informal, through distributed leadership, also play important roles in facilitating student learning.” (Dinham, 2009).

Teaching and educational leadership, like life generally, are heavily dependent on relationships.

Enhancing Student Achievement and Self Esteem

  • “We argued that an authoritative teaching style where high responsiveness is accompanied with high demandingness provides the best model for enhancing both student achievement and self esteem, and that a pre-occupation with building student self esteem through a permissive approach in the hope that this will translate into student achievement and development is counter productive.
  • We noted recent research where schools that were successful in facilitating students’ academic, personal and social development achieved this through an effective balance of focus on student achievement and student welfare, regardless of whether the school might be perceived by others as being either a ‘welfare’ or ‘academic’ school, an unhelpful and damaging false dichotomy” (Scott & Dinham, 2005; Dinham, 2005, 2010).

 Types of Leadership

  • Uninvolved Leadership
  • Authoritarian Leadership
  • Permissive Leadership
  • Authoritative Leadership
  • Uninvolved Leadership


  • Can the four types of parenting identified by Baumrind be productively applied to educational leadership?

Specific focus: Permissive Leadership

  • Lack of direction, accountability, organisational looseness
  • Trust and leeway may be exploited
  • May be reluctant to intervene or confront; small problems can grow
  • Standards and expectations can be unclear, contradictory, too low
  • Some staff will flourish, others will drift
  • Schools may be happy, sociable, at expense of progress.

Specific focus: Authoritative Leadership

  • High Responsiveness and high Demandingness
  • Best aspects of authoritarian and permissive leadership
  • Warm, supportive, sensitive to others, inclusive
  • Good listeners, networkers
  • Personal qualities admired, respected
  • Clear, high expectations of themselves and others
  • …Authoritative Leadership
  • Sets an example: ‘Give a lot, expect a lot’
  • Knows when to consult and when to be decisive, courageous
  • Places teaching and learning at the centre of the school; pupil welfare underpins academic success
  • Seeks to develop competent, assertive, self-regulated staff and students
  • Clear, effective, consistent policies and procedures
  • Timely, effective feedback, good and bad; people ‘know where they stand’
  • Practices distributive leadership
  • Strong emphasis on professional learning; models for others
  • Strong, clear vision for school
  • Bias towards innovation, action, experimentation, ‘permission to play’
  • Empowerment; trust, potential recognised, released; strategic, pragmatic; contagion effects
  • Evaluation, evidence, planning, action
  • Change used to advantage, rather than reactive, defensive
  • Leadership sustainability, succession, facilitated.


  • Authoritative leaders are ‘relationship’ people, able to ‘read’ and respond to others. They understand people and they understand change, which they help others to appreciate and to come to grips with.  They are authentic leaders, in that they model those qualities, attributes and behaviours they expect of others.
  • Authoritative leaders rely more on moral than positional authority, and influence more than overt control. In their relationships with teachers and students, authoritative leaders balance a high degree of responsiveness with a high degree of demandingness.
  • Those looking for and advocating quick fixes for struggling schools need to consider the intense, coordinated effort and teamwork under authoritative forms of leadership that such improvement entails.
  • However, the evidence is clear that it can be done. As one participant commented in the ÆSOP study: “in this school we make plans now, not excuses”.

Postscript – Education Since the 1960s

  • In the early 1960s education generally was characterised by high demandingness and low responsiveness, i.e., the relationship between schools and students was authoritarian.
  • A wave of social change saw pressure to make schools more responsive to students and their needs.
  • However, demandingness and responsiveness were falsely dichotomised
  • Greater responsiveness was thought to require less demandingness, and thus the relationship between schools and students became more permissive as demandingness decreased and responsiveness increased .
  • This false dichotomy and others (knowledge/skills; subject content/process; academic/welfare; competition/ collaboration; student centred/teacher centred; ‘sage’/ ‘guide’) has resulted in many of the problems we see in schools today, e.g.,
  • Disengagement, low expectations, behaviourial problems, role conflict and ambiguity, social determinism/stigmatisation, under-achievement, abrogation of teacher responsibility, fear of ‘competition’, learning must be ‘fun’, grade inflation
  • When such problems occur, there is a tendency to conclude that responsiveness has not gone far enough and is still being hindered by too high demandingness.
  • Thus, problems are further exacerbated
  • Some who speak out about this situation are seen as traditionalists or part of a ‘back to basics’ movement, i.e., seeking more authoritarianism.

The best teachers/leaders and schools today exhibit both high demandingness and high responsiveness, i.e., the relationship between schools, teachers, leaders and students is authoritative.

Key take-aways by students afterwards:

  • building on what is there
  • Care & fair
  • challenges in leadership in my school are absolutely and definitely not unique
  • Clearly articulated values
  • Collaboration
  • equity and excellence (not one or the other)
  • Equity in education
  • Evidence based research that justifies the qualities and appraoches taken by highly effective principals
  • expect a lot, give a lot
  • Get people on your bus who want to be there
  • Good parenting relates to good teaching
  • Having a positive attitude is contagious
  • Highly responsive and highly demanding
  • how influential mindsets can be.
  • I had 10 years of family leave (having 4 children)… I’ve reframed that experience now – instead of time out of the workforce, I am now declaring that I’ve had a decade of intensive leadership training!!
  • Impact of different leadership styles – currently working with a “challenging leader”
  • It’s deeply human work
  • know where your going
  • leaders have attitudes that are contagious
  • Leaders need to put focus on the learning & teaching
  • Leaders need to stand for something.
  • Leadership is a group process
  • Leadership is complex
  • Leadership makes a difference to students
  • My fave quote was: Leadership is more like gardening than mechanics. I have found that to be the case and I really recognised it.
  • positional power is not enough on its own
  • Positive attitudes are contagious
  • Relationships and investing in your human capital
  • Reminder to catch people doing the right thing and know how to feed that back to them
  • Research shows us what works, implementation can be complex!
  • strong link to leadership and student outcomes
  • That all facets of leadership needs a balanced approach
  • the element of trust
  • The importance of communication
  • The importance of making sure leadership impact is used for good
  • the importance of mutual trust in building relationships
  • The school culture (inspired by leaders) is crucial.
  • The time it takes to fully implement leadership change
  • thinking about management vs leadership
  • To always be “care and fair”
  • Use evidence based approaches