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Article

W. James Weese and P. Chelladurai

The study of leadership has a long and distinguished history. Over the past 100 years, researchers have pursued distinct lines of inquiry summarized in the trait theories, the behavioral theories, the contingency theories, and the transactional/transformational theories of leadership. More recent cognitive approaches have dominated the leadership literature base with emphasis on the areas of emotional intelligence and servant leadership. Even as new leadership models emerge, it is important to note that portions of the older theories continue to inform our understandings. The voluminous research base confirms three things about leadership. Leadership is a social process, involving people and engaging their emotions, motivations, and moods. Secondly, leadership is about influence. True leaders influence the thoughts and behaviors of people and groups without the manipulation of rewards or punishments. Some writers suggest that leadership is synonymous with influence. Finally, leaders focus, inspire, and motivate people and groups toward the accomplishment of a predetermined goal or objective. They bring clarity to a desired end and they inspire colleagues to channel their talents and energies toward its attainment. The theoretical developments of leadership, and the latest developments in particular (i.e., emotional intelligence and servant leadership), hold great promise for application in the sports domain.

Article

James Woolever and James Kelly

The study of leadership has a long history in disciplines outside of social work. Theorists have struggled with a myriad of definitions of leadership, as well as trait, behavioral, and situational leadership models. They have identified leadership types from transformational and charismatic to motivational. There has been much speculation and some study of the traits and characteristics of effective leaders, as well as effective leadership styles, abilities, and practices. Social work theorists have contributed to this field by identifying the critical and unique characteristics of social work leadership, such as adherence to social work norms and orientation to the needs of disadvantaged groups. In the 21st century, social workers have begun to elaborate technologies for creating tomorrow’s leaders through practices such as formal training, mentoring, and peer networking. There has always been, and will be, a critical need for leadership in social work endeavors. Leadership development can be viewed from two perspectives: the individual and the organizational. From the individual perspective, the system begins with a critical assessment of the individual’s strengths and limitations, along with the opportunities and threats for professional growth. Ultimately, the organization is responsible for providing resources to enable individual development. The long-term goal is to implement a developmental mind-set throughout the organization. Leadership development must be intended for all employees, not just a select few. Both individual and organizational job performance are ultimately dependent on the leadership developmental structures embedded within each organizational unit. The issue at hand is designing and delivering leadership development programs that meet the leadership requirements for today’s complex yet changing organizations.

Article

Leadership has fascinated people from antiquity and has been studied extensively by academics for many decades. A variety of theoretical perspectives have taken hold—most notably that of transformational leadership—and have sought to explore the processes whereby leaders influence followers, to delineate the factors that put limits on such influence, and to determine the interrelationship between the attributes that leaders bring to their role and the contexts in which they find themselves. There has also been a growing interest in followership and how the behaviors, cognitions, and emotions of followers both contribute to organizational and group outcomes and help to shape leader behavior. The issue of followership, however, remains very much a nascent area of inquiry within the broader field of leadership studies. Recently, explicitly communication perspectives have been brought more frequently to bear on leadership studies. This has assumed two main forms. First, “discursive leadership” has looked at both the linguistic mechanisms by which leader action and effects take place and how larger frames of leadership discourse can be said to constitute both broader leader–follower dynamics and our understanding of them. Associated with this, some complexity leadership theorists have stressed the “relational” dynamics implicit to leadership processes as a means of countering what they see as an excessive focus on the traits and actions of individual leaders. These approaches emphasize the importance of context and the relational dynamics between leaders and followers embedded in such contexts. Second, some communication scholars influenced by process theories of organization have begun to sketch out the means whereby communication is central to how organizational actors make, refuse, and enact claims to leadership agency, particularly in contexts where such claims may be contested by many. The role of follower dissent and power relations more generally is viewed as a crucial area of inquiry. Accordingly, communication approaches to leadership have adopted a variety of theoretical perspectives. Many scholars from communication backgrounds have researched communication processes whereby leaders influence others. More recently, critically oriented communication scholars have explored the often conflicted dynamics between leaders and followers, focusing on such issues as power, domination, and control and their implications for leadership theory. Both explicitly and implicitly, these have therefore challenged dominant leadership perspectives, particularly but not exclusively that of transformational leadership.

Article

David Litz and Rida Blaik-Hourani

Transformational leadership is one of the most widely discussed and utilized notions that has risen to the forefront of educational administration. Transformational leadership was initially conceived of as a process whereby leaders strategically transform the system or organization to a higher level by increasing the achievement and motivation of their followers. Early theorists would also argue that transformational leadership and change are inexorably intertwined, which in turn underscored the importance of a leader’s ability to positively transform the attitudes, norms, institutions, behaviors, and actions that structure our daily lives. Later writers and researchers would gradually extend and develop the theory and argue that the goal of transformational leadership is to transform people as well as organizations. Early work on transformational leadership concentrated on politics, business, and the armed services, and the research emphasized the value of “followers” as a distinguishing factor present in the transformational leadership model. This distinction is likely what led scholars to apply its tenets to modern educational contexts, which are typically characterized by significant pressures to implement widespread reforms and change. In this regard, transformational leadership is often viewed as well suited to education as it empowers followers (i.e., instructors) and provides them with a sense of hope, optimism, and energy and defines the vision of productivity as they accomplish goals. Additionally, transformational leaders work toward influencing shared beliefs and values to create a comprehensive level of change and innovation and aim to nurture a school culture that is oriented toward a learning ethos, whereby such leaders seek to expand the capacities of each employee, enhance their ways of thinking, and promote individual ambition. In this way, learning and growth becomes a shared responsibility. Transformational leadership has garnered significant attention and popularity. However, when viewed from a globalized and cross-cultural perspective it raises significant questions regarding generalization. One key question in the literature surrounding transformational leadership is whether the concept can be applied across national and organizational cultures. Theoretical education debates often focus on transformational leadership’s reliability and viability within educational environments, especially regarding how such environments define and handle change, organizational learning, institutional effectiveness and improvement, and enhancing student outcomes.

Article

Joana Setzer and Karen Anderton

Subnational diplomacy has become an increasingly important part of foreign policy and international relations. This observation concerns a state of affairs that is not necessarily obvious or given. First, by definition, subnational governments usually conduct subnational activities and address problems that affect their constituencies. Second, in many countries subnational governments undertake such an agenda without an actual legal framework authorizing such initiatives. However, with an intensified global interdependency, policy areas such as environmental protection, human rights, immigration, and trade, just to name a few, require action both at the international and territorialized levels, as many of them transcend political administrative boundaries. As a result, in the early 21st century it is possible to determine various forms of international relations conducted by subnational leaders. This activity involves direct interactions undertaken by subnational leaders and bureaucrats with other actors across borders (private, non-governmental, and governmental—national or subnational), participation in transnational networks, and/or participation in international policymaking. Because subnational governments are closer to the people and can test experimental or groundbreaking policies with less risk, oftentimes they can become pioneers of measures that can be rolled out or replicated elsewhere in the international domain. Such policy leadership is just one element of subnational engagement in the diplomatic arena whereby subnational governments move across jurisdictional levels, breaking the fixed scales in which they would traditionally operate. In the past years, scholars investigating the external relations undertaken by subnational governments have dedicated great effort to understanding the motivations for regions to go into the international arena. What these studies lack, however, is an understanding of what the implications are of subnational governments’ engagement in international relations.

Article

Frank D. Davidson and Thomas R. Hughes

The development of moral and ethical leadership in practicing and aspiring leaders is essential for the success of educational institutions. Leaders demonstrate moral and ethical leadership through striving to act in a manner reflective of the best interests of students. Such leadership is guided by a personal vision reflecting values such as integrity, fairness, equity, social justice, and respect for diversity. These qualities are reflected in the 2015 Professional Standards for Educational Leaders published by the National Policy Board for Educational Administration. One’s understanding of moral and ethical leadership can be strengthened by seeing the connections between moral leadership and the related themes of transformational leadership, authentic leadership, and trust in leaders. School leaders can help to create ethical schools by developing and being guided by a vision-driven professional ethos, manifesting that ethos in interactions with others, engaging staff in the co-creating of a vision-driven school, and through advocacy in the larger community.

Article

Leadership has received unprecedented attention in the educational leadership literature. With only a few skeptics rolling their eyes, the importance of leaders in educational reform and school improvement goes uncontested in the 21st century while the search for effective leadership—the Holy Grail of educational effectiveness and improvement—continues. That leaders, motivated by moral purpose, bring about change, uplifting “failing” schools, is the common perception. Apart from an exceptionally small number of studies, educational leadership research has generally focused on effective leadership, the implicit assumption being that leadership, by default, is positive and leaders are always well-intended, even if not always highly effective in the execution of their responsibilities. Destructive forms of leadership that would eventually harm followers or the organization have been virtually neglected. Regardless of the silence on the dark side of leadership, however, a limited number of studies, mainly from the business field and to a much lesser extent, from the public sector and schooling, suggest that negative or even destructive forms of leadership may be more widespread than is popularly perceived. Recent portrayals of contemporary educational leadership suggest that the field needs to be re-conceptualized and recalibrated in ways that acknowledge rather than ignore leaders’ frailties and the use and abuse of power by leaders with darker dispositions. In reviewing the leadership literature, a new settlement, a rapprochement, must be found between the positives and the negatives, the transformative and the destructive, as a means of recapitulating the field with more wide-eyed and real-world characteristics and achievements, where leaders and followers alike can survive and thrive while engaged in leadership praxis for everyday life and work.

Article

Howard Youngs

Distributed leadership is a diverse concept, prominent in the education field since the turn of the millennium. Practitioners, researchers, and policymakers often tout it as a preferred mode of leadership. Distributed leadership has historical roots in the leadership studies field and first came to prominence in the education field as an alternative unit of analysis for understanding leadership through a distributed perspective rather than a focus mainly on discrete leader behaviors. This perspective was surpassed but not replaced by a normative position where distributed leadership is a means for organizational development. Research studies reveal distributed leadership has many forms in practice. The associated knowledge production emerging from such studies as well as typologies and critical commentaries expose multiple positions. Distributed leadership is not only a diverse concept, but a complex one. Despite its popularity, critical perspectives related to power and issues of social justice still require further development. There are also calls to reposition distributed leadership as a hybrid of dispersed and individual leadership.

Article

Darlyne Bailey, Kimberly B. Bonner, Katrina M. Uhly, and Jessica Schaffner Wilen

The concept of leadership has evolved from focusing on innate abilities, to learned skills, to understanding that leadership is composed of both skills and abilities. Recently, theorists and practitioners have identified elements of effective leadership within social work organizations. These areas of knowledge, skills, and values encourage social work leaders to recognize their organizations as living systems within an interdependent world and aid them in connecting humanistic intentions with effects. Both acknowledgment and enactment of these leadership competencies are essential for all organizational members to engage in effective dialogue and action. Social workers, regardless of their organizational titles, can learn and hone these qualities in social work training programs and continuing professional development opportunities, as well as through practical field experiences for effective leadership in the field.

Article

The effective operation of a school unit relies on various factors, the most critical of which is leadership, as it this which shapes the working environment through which the school succeeds or fails. Indeed, an effective leader can inspire vision and promote educational policy in the interests of the school and other stakeholders. This leadership role in schools is undertaken by head teachers, who are called to act as supervisors of the school’s human resources in parallel with their purely administrative work. In order for school leaders to achieve these outcomes, however, they must be adequately trained so as to be competent in undertaking the arduous task of leading a school unit. Consequently, in order for school leaders to carry out their daunting tasks successfully—in other words, achieve the best possible results with the fewest sacrifices and least effort—they must possess certain knowledge and aptitudes. For this reason, the staffing of the school units in any country (and hence in Greece) with capable school leaders should be the top priority of the State, while measures should be taken to ensure that the processes for selecting school leaders and for their professional development remain objective and systematic, if the country intends to implement an educational policy efficiently and effectively. Taking into account that the school leader is not born but becomes, and that school leaders are central to the administration of a country’s educational system, it is vital that a system of selection and development of schools’ head teachers be institutionalized.

Article

Scholars have suggested that the study of school leadership has been dominated by Anglo-American and Western views. This has provoked a call for conceptual and empirical research on school leadership using a cross-cultural perspective. In their 2005 work, Dimmock and Walker provided a comprehensive Framework for the Study of Cross-Cultural School Leadership that responded to the deficit of non-Western views. They, along with others, have argued that principals play a vital role in shaping school culture and that there is a need to expand our conceptualization of culture to include organizational, local, regional, national, and global culture. Hofstede’s Model and the Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness (GLOBE) research program, initiated by Robert House in 1991, are examples of empirical models for the study of cross-cultural leadership. Ylimaki and Jacobson’s (2011) International Study of Successful School Principals (ISSPP) examined the common cross-cultural practices and policy concerns across seven global educational contexts. Their findings pointed to some common policy concerns that involve accountability, principal preparation, and the need for principals who are culturally competent. They stressed the importance of rigorous systematic research studies, reliable and valid instruments, and reconsideration of philosophies about educational administration that incorporate non-Western views and utilize a cross-cultural perspective. Some common practices cross-culturally included having high expectations, engaging in instructional and transformational leadership, shared leadership with teachers, capacity development, heroic leadership that challenged the status quo, and an emphasis on continuous learning and professional development.

Article

Philip A. Woods, Joy Jarvis, Amanda Roberts, and Suzanne Culshaw

School leadership preparation and development in England has to be understood in the context of England’s radically changing school system. Local democratic accountability of schools has been reduced and a range of new actors have entered the state school system to sponsor and govern schools. Since 2010, the numbers of such “independent” state schools have increased rapidly. As the role of local authorities has diminished, the middle tier of governance has been transformed and continues to evolve, with new forms of grouping schools emerging, such as multi-academy trusts (MATs) and teaching school alliances (TSAs). This and the influential idea in England of the school system as a school-led, self-improving system have implications for leadership and its preparation and development. System leadership, by national leaders of education for example, is seen as an essential layer of support for and a catalyst to school improvement, in addition to leadership of and within schools. In the first decade of the 21st century, leadership preparation and development became more like a “nationalized” service, with the creation of the National College for School Leadership (later the National College for Teaching and Leadership). With the abolition of the National College in 2013, the direction of travel was towards more plural and diverse providers of school leadership and preparation—some would say a privatized model of provision—including MATs, TSAs, schools and other providers. There are both potential strengths and weaknesses in this model. More autonomy is promised for providers and participants in preparing for and developing leadership, which could foster creativity in modes of provision. There are also tensions. Policy aims that promote the quantitative measurement of education on the basis of instrumental and economistic goals sit uneasily with other policy aims that appear to value education as the nurturing of human development as a good in itself; yet different educational purposes have different implications for the practice of school leadership and hence its preparation and development. A further tension is that between a positive recognition in the leadership discourse of the distributed nature of leadership and a tendency to revert to a more familiar focus on positional leadership roles and traditional, hierarchical leadership. Other issues include the practical consequences of a system of plural and diverse providers. The system may increase opportunities for innovation and local responsiveness, but it is not clear how it will ensure sufficiently consistent high-quality leadership preparation and development across the system. There are questions to do with power and inequalities—for example, whether greater autonomy works well for some providers and participants in leadership preparation and development, whilst others are much more constrained and less able to find or create opportunities to develop their leadership practice. Space for critical and questioning research and professional enquiry, independent of the interests and priorities of providers and government, is essential. Such research and enquiry are needed to illuminate how leadership preparation and development practice actually evolves in this more plural system, and who shapes that practice in the differing local contexts across England.

Article

Maladministration is the performance of leadership relative to the considerable mismanagement of official functions centering on conduct described as incompetent, but not illegal. Understandings of maladministration in the literature are extended through portraits of everyday acts of maladministration within university schools and colleges of education. These are meant to complement the existing research on various psychologies of dysfunctional leadership through the specific lens of day-to-day leadership actions. In this article, an examination of organizational symptoms of maladministration is offered along with its overall impact on organizational culture. For purposes of this article, maladministration is defined as the performance of leaders relative to the considerable mismanagement of official functions that centers on conduct described as incompetent, but not illegal. Specific portraits intended to deconstruct maladministrators in their everyday efforts are described. Then, concluding thoughts outline a set of diagnostic tools and advice for those looking to navigate their careers around and even transcend leaders who are guilty of maladminstrative practice. Like the disciplines of medicine and the law, leadership is a professional endeavor built on translating bodies of research, professional skill sets, and dispositions into daily practice. As with other professions, the struggle to define the difference between appropriate practice and substandard work is challenging. Arguably, more attention in the literature has been given to examining the hallmarks of skilled leadership rather than the contours of malpractice. A term used in various global contexts to reference the failed execution of leadership responsibilities is maladministration. For purposes of this discussion, maladministration is defined as the performance of leaders relative to the considerable mismanagement of official functions that centers on conduct described as incompetent, but not illegal. This article extends understandings of maladministration by presenting portraits of everyday maladministration within university schools and colleges of education. Understandings of maladministration in the literature are extended through portraits of everyday acts of maladministration within university schools and colleges of education. These are meant to complement the existing research on various psychologies of dysfunctional leadership through the specific lens of day-to-day leadership actions. This article begins with an examination of organizational symptoms of maladministration along with its overall impact on organizational culture. Next, specific portraits intended to deconstruct maladministrators in their everyday efforts are outlined. The concluding discussion outlines a set of diagnostic tools and advice for those looking to navigate their careers around and even transcend leaders who are guilty of maladminstrative practice.

Article

The concept of teacher leadership emerged in the United States in the 1980s but increasingly it has featured in the contemporary international discourse about professionalization and modernization. It is best understood against the backdrop of the emergence in the literature of an awareness of the importance of the distinction between educational leadership and school management. A key dimension of that discussion is the concept of transformational leadership, which emphasizes that the goal of leadership is change rather than the maintenance of the status quo. Linked to this is the view that improved outcomes can only be secured when organizational conditions are modified to enable practitioners to develop as individuals and in relation to one another. The idea of distributed leadership is integral to this perspective, which leads to a focus on teachers as potential agents of change. However, interpretations of the concept of teacher leadership are shaped by the realities of hierarchical organizational structures and the way policies related to curriculum and assessment lead to patterns of accountability. Middle managers inevitably focus on management at the expense of leadership. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most common distinction drawn in the literature on teacher leadership is between formal and informal, a distinction which reflects the emphasis on designated roles of responsibility within organizations rather than the actual practice of leadership. An alternative conceptualization is that of non-positional teacher leadership, which hinges on the teacher’s professionality and the possibility that leadership could be part of any teacher’s construction of their professional identity. There is a body of evidence emerging that indicates the possibility that any education practitioner can be enabled to develop their human agency and moral purpose and so become an effective agent of change.

Article

Mindfulness and leadership come together as a model for arriving at solutions in the field of education. Two approaches, Eastern and Western, present perspectives on mindfulness that are distinct, however both aim towards the same goal of enhancing awareness. Originating in the East, mindfulness is at the core of Buddhist philosophy and includes enhanced attention and an attentiveness to the present. Conversely, the Western approach to mindfulness gained traction in the 1970s in the field of cognitive and social psychology. Within the field of education in the United States, mindfulness has contributed, primarily in the classroom, as an activity to foster better classroom management and improved focus on learning. Mindfulness has also been applied to mindful learning, aimed at revealing enhanced approaches to learning. Along a similar vein, applications of mindfulness in the leadership field, encourage the approach of focused attention to individual leadership development, problem-solving, and self-reflection. Resonant leadership and authentic leadership are two of the primary leadership models that include the strategy of mindfulness. Moving beyond the individual perceptions of mindfulness in leadership development, a more collaborative approach of mindfulness has emerged, where social change emerges from interdependence and mutuality amongst a number of individuals. Whether at the individual or collective level, mindfulness is impacted by cultural influences. Educational leaders are tasked with leading ethnically diverse learning communities by necessity, as demographics change and ethnic minority populations become minority majority populations. Thus, awareness of one’s cultural mindset, both limitations and strengths, can contribute to one’s leadership abilities. Mindfulness, when directed inward, can paradoxically enhance one’s ability to better understand others and to breakthrough stereotypes. This perspective could foreseeably foster cultural competence and greater levels of cultural integration, but as a function of greater self-awareness. Thus, mindfulness and leadership, as a creative combination of self and other, come together as a promising model of leadership for educators. Whether integrated as a necessary element of existing leadership theories, or identified as an important process of reflection in leadership development, mindfulness opens a pathway to greater insight and awareness. Aspects of mindfulness can therefore contribute to leadership, in particular, at the intersection of these elements relative to culture.

Article

Fenwick W. English

That some of the characteristics of leaders, ancient and modern, involve the ability of a leader to connect with and create an emotional bond with followers is an age-old documented phenomenon. Academic studies of charisma, as a special gift from the gods, have proven disappointing. Finding predictable descriptors about who is or is not such a leader have not revealed the kind of scientific reliability believed to be required to stand the test of context free generalization. Studies about charismatic leaders have shifted from compiling lists of common traits or behaviors, to recognition that situational context and culture in which a leader functions is a more reliable guide to what leaders with charisma do and what lies behind their common agendas throughout history. There are different types of charismatic leaders depending on their motivation and who benefits from their ministrations. Bureaucracies do not require leaders to be charismatic because the authority of bureaucracy is rational and legal, not emotional. Yet the essence of transformational leadership is the emotional bond between leaders and followers. Such a bond is independent of the moral legitimacy of any agenda which units them.

Article

Mohammad Noman and David Gurr

Context, culture, and leadership are features of educational organizations, yet the relationship between the three is poorly understood. Often leadership theories are propagated as though they will be applicable in all situations, yet research on successful school leaders has found that leadership is highly contextual in nature and that the success of educational leaders depends upon how leaders adapt their practices according to contextual factors. Contextual leadership transcends the rigid, and at times overlapping boundaries of existing educational leadership theories and models and brings the context to the center stage of the practices of educational leaders. Culture can be considered as one of the context factors, but it is a complicated factor with many dimensions. Successful educational leaders are the ones who master the art of creating a balance between multiple cultural contexts acting upon their institutions and, through their contextual practices, learn the art of successfully leading their institutions by creating an inclusive, multicultural environment. Successful school leaders are those who are culturally sensitive, but not context constrained.

Article

Poststructuralism is broadly considered to be a particular movement of thought that emerged in France during the 1960s in response to a range of philosophical approaches such as modernism and structural linguistics. Poststructuralism has been extensively explored across philosophy, cultural studies, politics, and numerous other fields. It has also received significant attention in education, particularly in relation to education policy, although much less so in relation to educational leadership and administration. Nevertheless, it is important to identify some of the main thinkers who have been associated with poststructuralism, examples of how their work has been used and drawn from in educational leadership, and explore how these ideas might be useful in providing alternative perspectives to much of the existing research in educational leadership and administration.

Article

Standards are used in a variety of professional fields to identify core elements of practice within the field as well as to describe a desired level of performance. The first set of standards for the field of educational leadership in the United States was introduced in 1996 by the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium (ISLLC). Since then, they have become the de facto national standards for educational leaders. The ISLLC standards have been updated three times and were recently renamed Professional Standards for School Leaders (PSEL) under the authority of the National Policy Board for Educational Administration (NPBEA). Over this same period of time, multiple sets of sister standards (e.g., standards for leadership preparation) have emerged as have evaluation tools and practice resources. Soon after their release, a variety of concerns were raised about the standards and their potential impact on the practice of education leadership, particularly school level leadership. Some argued that the standards were too broad, while others argued that they were too specific. Similarly, concerns were raised about the focus of the standards and what was left out or only weakly included. These and other concerns continued to plague newer versions of the standards. Concerns notwithstanding, today, educational leadership standards are fully embedded in the lifeworld of the educational leadership profession. They have been adopted and adapted by states, districts, professional organizations, and accrediting bodies and used in a variety of ways, including: setting expectations for educational leadership preparation and practice, state certification, leadership recruitment, professional development and support, and evaluating leadership practice.

Article

Angelo Paletta, Christopher Bezzina, and Genc Alimehmeti

The changes that are affecting public education imply the need to incorporate into principal’s leadership practices two opposing forces: on the one hand, the accountability systems, which require responsibility for centrally managed achievement testing, compliance with standard procedures of self-evaluation, planning teaching improvement, and reporting of the results; and on the other hand, the expectations that come from within the school, namely those of teachers, students, families, and other stakeholders. This presents the challenge of coproducing authentic learning (problem solving, soft skills, civic knowledge, and citizenship) that is not easily measurable and therefore difficult to bring to light, rationalize, systematize, and report. Principals react differently to the demands of centralized policy-making initiatives. Some see them as opportunities for growth and only formally adopt them, whereas others entrench themselves into particular practices aimed at focusing on the immediate, on being conservative and minimizing risk taking and setting less ambitious goals that can take their schools forward. Managerial accountability can end up “colonizing” the organizations (and those who lead them), with the consequence that time and attention is devoted to what is being measured or observed by the central administrative systems. The “colonized” leaders develop or bend their managerial practices primarily in response to the expectations of accountability systems. On the opposite side, accountability systems can produce the effect of “decoupling”: the actual activities are separated from the rituals of accountability requested by the central or local government. In this case, school principals conform only formally to the demands of accountability systems. Other school leaders can capture opportunities from an accountability system, integrating it into a comprehensive management approach that balances opposing requests and organizational principles into a “systemic” model. Thus, the accountability practices in the field of education introduced in Italy can leave both a positive or negative impact on the way school principals lead their organizations. Studying the impact that the introduction of such policies can have on individuals as a result of the way leaders execute such directives are deemed important as they shed light on the link between policy and practice, and help us gain deeper insights into the so-called theory and practice divide. The move toward greater forms of accountability presents an ideal opportunity for policy makers and educational leaders working at different levels to appreciate the importance of systemic leadership and engage in a discourse that enlightens its value to school improvement initiatives. Rather than focusing on the self, on merely following directives and working independently, the school principal that is able to understand how things and people are connected and can come together to transform their schools can make a difference to school development and school improvement. Bringing policy makers and implementers together can help in understanding the realities faced by educators at the school level, the former often oblivious to the challenges educators face on a day-to-day basis.