Bringing context out of the shadows of leadership

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342 Citations (Scopus)


Research on educational leadership and management has resulted in the accumulation of increasingly persuasive findings concerning the impact school leadership can have on school performance. Indeed, there is a growing consensus that there exists a generic set of leadership practices (e.g. goal setting, developing people) which must be adapted to meet the needs and constraints that describe different school contexts. However, to date, researchers have yet to develop a theory or report comprehensive findings on this challenge. This paper explores several types of school contexts (institutional, community, socio-cultural, political, economic, school improvement) and what we have learned about how they shape school leadership practice. The analysis leads to several conclusions and recommendations. First, it affirms, elaborates and extends the assertion made by scholars of the importance of examining leadership in context. Second, the need to contextualize leadership highlights deficiencies in modal research methods that focus on mean effects and either ignore context effects or relegate them to the shadows. Finally, the field needs to refine current research methods and explore new approaches that enable us to better study how successful leadership responds and adapts to different contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-24
Number of pages20
JournalEducational Management Administration and Leadership
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Leadership
  • context
  • culture
  • principal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Strategy and Management


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