But Ian Gamble, HMCI, accepted that they face "a demanding agenda".
A key attribute of successful school leaders is that they have "a consistent impact on learning and teaching in schools, which is something they can do if they have a clear focus on that as the main business of what schools should be about".
Mr Gamble conceded that such a sustained impact is something school managers find very difficult because of the many other demands on their time.
HMI's guide to effective leaders is that they:
* Continually promote their vision in which learning and teaching is central.
* Involve themselves directly in the work going on in classrooms.
* Encourage debate on innovation.
* Seek out the best practice.
* Monitor and evaluate attainment levels in their school.
* Promote the school as a learning organisation for staff as well as pupils, "underlining the fact that everyone is capable of improving".
* Innovate carefully and avoid promoting change indiscriminately, doing so only where it can be sustained over time.