Why do “leaders” matter in school culture?

Since my major is school leadership, it is my missionary endeavor to talk about the role of school leaders. School community perceives different attitudes toward school leaders. Some might think that a school leader is a principal, for someone a school leader is associated with inspired teachers. There were plenty of studies conducted to identify and the value of a leader in school culture.

I liked the study conducted by Heck and Marcoulides (1996) where they reported organizational values of school leaders in secondary schools of Singapore. Researchers found that schools, where positive social and professional relationships exists, staff members are highly qualified and student achievements are comparatively higher. More specifically, innovation and risk taking schools encourage teacher participation in decision-making and provide time for collaboration. As Heck and Marcoulides indicate, all these effects of organizational values on performance are likely to be mediated by teachers’ attitudes and to a lesser degree by the school’s organizational climate (Heck, R.H., & Marcoulides, G.A., 1996).  (Maslowski, R., 2001) also supports this idea that school culture is the process of the accumulation of many individuals’ values and norms as it constructs the frame that fulfills “school life.”

On the other hand, nothing goes forward without “people.” Therefore, a particular leader or leaders drive any schooling system. To my mind, every single staff member in a school is defined to be a separate leader, because, they have invisible and pervasive influence each other and learners. When I imagine school leaders, the pictures of school principals and teachers immediately appear in mind. Several authors (Knapp et al., 2003) gave thorough and clear explanations of leaders’ role in and out of schooling as following:

  • Student learning framed in broad terms to include more than “achievement” on single, albeit important, measures such as test scores.
  • Professional learning, including the array of skills, knowledge, and values that teachers and administrators gain from practice itself, formal attempts to develop their professional capacities while on the job, and from initial preparation for their professional positions.
  • “System learning,” conceived of as “insight into the functioning of the system [e.g., school, district system] as a whole to develop and evaluate new policies, practices, and structures that enhance its performance” (Knapp et al., 2003, p. 11).

School leaders face different responsibilities and duties in learning and teaching environment. However, I would like to highlight that if a leader is capable to transform his or her leadership qualities to the other members, then it is a very important priority of a “boss.”

There have been many researches done which tried to explore the roles of schooling concepts. The effect of schooling has been one of the discussing dilemma in educational research over the past centuries and not only. To sum up all the idea before, I do believe, if a nation’s ideology and culture is strong enough and preserved from “globalizing mess”, then it can manage its schooling system effectively.


Heck, R.H., & Marcoulides, G.A. (1996). School Culture and Performance: Testing the Invariance of an Organizational Model. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 7 (1), 6-95. In Maslowski, R. (2001). School Culture and School Performance. Twente University Press. Retrieved from: <www.tup.utwente.nl/uk/catalogue/educational/school-culture>

Knapp, M. S., Copland, M. A., & Talbert, J. E. (2003). Leading for learning: Reflective tools for school and district leaders. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Center for Teaching and Policy.

Maslowski, R. (2001). School Culture and School Performance. Twente University Press. Retrieved from: <www.tup.utwente.nl/uk/catalogue/educational/school-culture>


One thought on “Why do “leaders” matter in school culture?

  1. Dinara, thanks a lot for the post. I do want to share my opinion on this matter. I think ideology shapes a school culture. This is because according to Hollins (1996), “a school culture is cultural practices and values that reflect the norms of the society for which they have been developed” (p.55). There is a point that only a principal is able to shape the school culture. However, shaping the school culture is not only principal`s duty but teachers can also contribute to the effectiveness of the school. I am reminded the beautiful words of Robin Williams who can be a good example of a true leader in the film Dead Poets Society: “You must strive to find your own voice because the longer you wait to begin; the less likely you are to find it at all.”


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