It is hard to imagine a world without leaders or leadership. In one form or another there are those who are seen to be leading others by directing, influencing and organising collective effort. In most societies we look to our ‘leaders’ (whether they be religious, political, military, industrial or public servants) for guidance and inspiration. For centuries these leaders have been a cornerstone of society. The best of them are trusted, perceived to hold a strong set of values and beliefs and, perhaps most importantly, to possess unwavering integrity and humility. During the past two to three decades the context for leadership appears to have changed at a rapid pace. With the accelerating expansion of e-technology and the emergence of 24-hour ‘real time’ media, leadership has become ubiquitously visible. This has presented a new set of challenges for our leaders. Some have gained prominence, even celebrity status. However, this swift rise can be fragile and temporary, ending in mockery and disgrace. For example, Lord Sugar, the former Chairman of both Amstrad and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, is an international industrial leader, but is now better known as a television star. His television programme follows potential apprentices competing for a business partnership or a £100,000-salary job in one of his companies, achievable only if they can avoid being told ‘You’re Fired’ by a growling Sugar. Steve Jobs, the CEO of the computer giant Apple, was also an internationally recognised leader. He built the Apple brand and range of i-products, and his personal image was and remains deeply and inextricably linked to the brand and its success. Until his recent death, no Apple product launch would be complete without images of Jobs flooding the e-networks. On the other hand we see leaders whose celebrity status is derived from major mistakes – such as Gerald Ratner, whose careless remark about the quality of his goods was so disastrous for the business, or Sir Fred Goodwin, who seems, in the public mind, to carry so much personal blame for the international banking crisis. Increased visibility and the potential rewards, not least in the international finance sector, have brought leadership into global focus. This phenomenon is not the preserve of industry leaders. While political and religious leaders have always had a relatively high profile, recent decades have

also seen military leaders move further into the public spotlight. It has become common to witness military commanders on television explaining the rationale for and outcomes of a military strike, and their memoirs and accounts of conflict fill the shelves of airport bookshops. Leadership has come into sharp focus in the public sector, especially within education. In England, state-school headteachers are now under a public spotlight previously reserved for a few high-profile headmasters of independent schools. One example is Sir William Atkinson, Headteacher of the Phoenix School in London. In the late 1990s and 2000s he was recognised as the catalyst for ‘turning around’ the fortunes of a very difficult school in a tough area of the city. He was recognised for his efforts, gaining a knighthood and becoming an adviser to the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair. He could also be heard sharing his views about leadership and change on TV and radio phone-in and panel discussions. He sat on the Question Time panel, the BBC’s leading current affairs and political debate show. Initially the BBC1 soap opera Waterloo Road, charting the development of a school ‘rising from the ashes’, was based on his story, with the first head having similar character traits and bearing a notable physical resemblance. The media reporting of his work, along with that of a number of other high-profile headships in England, has reinforced the attention given to school leadership as the key element in making a difference to the outcomes and ultimately the life chances of young people. Some of these heads rose to prominence only to be ‘dethroned’ from their newly-found status. One of the most high-profile falls from grace was that of Dame Jean Else, who has recently had her title revoked. In England the rewards for this generation of leaders have been substantial, but the stakes were high and the pressure colossal. This book aims to unpack the work of principals and headteachers like Sir William Atkinson, who are successful against the odds, to expose the complexity of their educational leadership and offer accessible insights into their key practices. We use the term ‘high-leverage leadership’ to describe leadership that is associated with higher outcomes than would normally be found in similar contexts. Put simply, the outcomes achieved are disproportionately higher than one might expect. High-leverage leadership reaches out to the holy grail of ‘excellence and equity’, not only achieving outstanding outcomes but promoting fairness (recognition and redistribution) for young people and also, as we explain in Chapter 5, for the adults who work with them. Importantly, high-leverage leadership ensures that the system gets the most ‘bangs for its bucks’. Our argument is that high-leverage leaders engage in three forms of related activity, Navigation, Management and Partnership, to produce high outcomes for the young people. The purpose of this chapter is to set the context for that argument. First, we provide an overview of the development of educational leadership research. Second, we discuss a number of theories and practices associated with educational leadership, and third, we reflect on the emerging challenges that lead us to conclude that a reconceptualisation of educational leadership is necessary if we are to maximise educational outcomes for all.